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When I was in Primary School some of my favourite lunch time activities were playing ’44 home’ or hanging upside down on the monkey bars. Even though my sports gender neutral uniforms (shorts and a polo shirt) were far more appropriate for these activities over my summery dress, I was not allowed to wear it unless it was a Friday. To ensure I was still having fun while maintaining a level of modesty, my Mum sent me to school wearing bike shorts or ‘scungies’ under my school dress. I was able to hang upside down and run on the oval without a care in the world.

In high school during winter, the boys could opt to wear long pants to school, but the girls couldn’t. We were told to wear ‘stockings’ underneath our skirts if we wanted to be warm. Anyone who has ever worn stockings knows that 1. They get super itchy, and 2. They provide no warmth whatsoever. Even though the pants option was still school uniform, it could not be worn by the girls.

Gender Neutral Uniforms Reform

In July last year, the NSW Government introduced a new school uniform policy which for the first time, included shorts as an option for girls’ school uniforms. While the public system has taken a step in the right direction, this policy does not apply to private schools. Barker Headmaster Phillip Heath has taken the steps to introduce inclusive uniforms with the option to wear whatever makes the student most comfortable. There is a lot of push back from a number of other private schools as uncovered by the Sydney Morning Herald. These schools are unwilling to change due to their “traditions” and “rich history”. Headmaster Heath noted that Schools should be prioritising comfort over gender.

Similarly, in Japan, girls will now be able to wear pants as part of their uniform in all public junior high schools in Tokyo’s Nakano and Setagaya wards. The change came about when a young female student submitted a request because she likes to play sports at school and her dress was impractical.

It’s a step in the right direction for comfort in the school environment. By creating gender neutral uniforms that are practical for everyone to wear, there will be an increase in people taking pride in their uniform, and a decrease in the number of students being punished for not being in correct uniform. As Headmaster Heath said; Schools should be prioritising comfort over gender.