Girls’ school uniforms: debunking the myth that choice currently exists

Since we launched Girls’ Uniform Agenda (GUA) in February 2017, a common response from the wider public has been surprise that schools do not allow girls to wear shorts and long pants as everyday wear in girls’ school uniforms. Each member of GUA has heard comments such as, “My daughter’s school lets girls wear shorts. They all do these days!” “What do you mean you have to fight for the right for girls to wear shorts and pants? That’s already happening in most schools now”, and “It’s 2017. Most schools let girls wear shorts these days”.

In light of such comments, we at Girls’ Uniform Agenda have realised that some myth busting is in order. Sometimes, what we believe to be true, due to our own experience, or that of people we know, is not reflective of the wider community experience.

It is important we understand and accept that for a large number of girls in a large number of schools across Australia, the choice to wear shorts and pants as part of their everyday school uniform does not exist. While women wear shorts and pants to work, female teachers stand in front of classes wearing shorts and pants, and girls wear shorts and pants in public playgrounds, theatres, fun parks and campgrounds across the country, a ridiculously large number of girls are REQUIRED to wear dresses and skirts to school.

What the data says about girls’ school uniforms in Brisbane

Girls’ Uniform Agenda searched school uniform policies found online for state and private primary and secondary schools in the greater Brisbane area (includes Logan, Moreton, Redlands and Ipswich). As can be seen in the table below, state primary schools are doing quite well in providing options for girls, yet 10% still require girls to wear skirts or dresses. For private primary schools, this increases to 36% of schools. The numbers get even worse in secondary school, with 67% of public and every single private school requiring skirts or dresses for girls.

BRISBANE Primary State Primary Private Secondary State Secondary Private
Number of uniform policies searched 101 (of 219) 101 (of 101) 67 (of 126) 41 (of 52)
Allowed shorts and pants 40 (40%) 8 (8%) 14 (21%) 0
Allowed skorts or cullotes. 50 (50%) 56 (55%) 8 (12%) 0
Required skirts or dresses 10 (10%) 37 (36%) 45 (67%) 41 (100%)

If you look at this table closely, you will see that while culottes and skorts are offered more widely (at least in primary school), a simple pair of shorts is not offered to girls much at all. Of all uniform policies we analysed, only 24% of primary schools, and 21% of secondary schools, allowed girls to wear shorts and pants.

Of course we also looked at whether boys were allowed to wear shorts and pants, and we did find one school where boys WERE NOT allowed to wear shorts (they had to wear long pants every day, in Brisbane, in summer!!!) While almost every single school across every sector and age range in greater Brisbane offers shorts and pants to male students, only 20% offer the same option to girls.

There is no reasonable argument as to why girls cannot be offered shorts and long pants as their everyday formal uniform. We at GUA think this may be why so many people are convinced that shorts and long pants are widely available to girls in schools, because it seems so utterly unbelievable that they would not be. Despite the lack of reasonable arguments against shorts and long pants for girls in schools, they remain largely unavailable.

The problem of limited choice in girls’ school uniforms is Australia wide

While the figures above relate to Brisbane, anecdotally we understand similar figures exist around the country. We have members from QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, WA, and TAS who have all had to stand up for the rights of their daughter’s in order to encourage schools to allow shorts and pants for girls. We have heard from parents across the country who are struggling to have this change implemented in their schools. Our petition arguing for a legislative requirement that schools offer shorts and pants for girls has over 19,900 signatures. You can sign our petition here.

Importantly, the work of GUA, and many other concerned parents and educators across the country, is creating change in this area. Principals are contacting us to gain assistance in updating their uniform policies so that girls are offered shorts and pants as everyday options. Momentum is growing that choice be offered to girls so that we do indeed move into the 21st century.

How you can help create change in what girls wear to school

To be part of this increasing momentum, be sure to ‘Like’ the Girls’ Uniform Agenda Facebook page, and use the resources available on our website – click here. Importantly, talk about this issue with everyone you meet. Explain to them that many schools are not offering shorts and pants as uniform options to girls, and that this is no longer an acceptable position.

And please, talk with every person you see in every school you come into contact with. Ask if they allow choice for girls, and if not, encourage them to contact GUA and make the necessary changes. Together, we will create a future where the statistics indicate that 100% of girls are allowed to wear shorts and pants to school, just like the boys beside them.

Dr Amanda Mergler

Co-founder Girls’ Uniform Agenda

Contact GUA at