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Uniform approach: Why most students blend in while others are allowed to stand out

Media Academy

Students across Queensland find themselves entangled in the age-old debate around the purpose of mandatory uniforms.

School uniforms are often used as a marketing strategy, promoting the quality of education, discipline and opportunities on offer to students.

Private or independent schools have a more luxurious and elegant uniform, such as blazers and boater hats, which may signal the level of resourcing at the institutions.

Public school uniforms, however, are less flashy, raising the question of whether making them mandatory could potentially be a negative, rather than a positive.

Indooroopilly State High School is one of the only public schools in Queensland to challenge social norms by not requiring students to wear a uniform.

Education Queensland’s assistant regional director, Alan Sampson, explained that due to Indooroopilly’s high intake of international students, it was felt it would be better for the school to ditch the uniform rather than force it on students whose families already pay a significant amount of money for an Australian education.

However, at other public schools, the uniform remains mandatory. Sunnybank State High School principal Leah Fontaine suggested students generally recognised the reason for such a policy.

“The school uniform has a positive impact on students,” Fontaine said.

“It allows them to feel a sense of connection and belonging.”

Olivia Speed, a Sunnybank student, disagreed.

“School uniforms are uncomfortable and delay our ability to express ourselves,” Speed said.

“Being a teenager is a time where we get to discover ourselves but the ability to do that is diminished because we have to comply to strict uniform policies.”

Mandatory uniforms mean that students in the community, for example travelling to and from their homes, are seen as representatives of the school. This extends the rules and enforcement extend beyond the school gate.

Fontaine said uniforms helped with the primary role of schooling – education.

“Uniforms hinder the distractions in classrooms and sharpen a student’s focus on their learning and so they achieve better academically,” the principal said.

Students who go on to university will not be required to wear a uniform.

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