Sunday Mail

EDITORIAL page 12.

Sunday, January 17, 1999

Uniform school rules

State Government must bite the bullet and make a firm decision on whether or not uniforms should be compulsory in state schools.

If it decides in favour, it must introduce legislation to make the situation clear so no extra burdens are placed on principals or teachers.

Controversy was heightened at the end of last term when Queens land Ombudsman Fred Albietz ruled principals were acting unlawfully by making students wear official school uniforms.

Opponents claim compulsory uniforms deprive children of their individuality and freedom of choice.

Proponents - and they include Education Minister Dean Wells - say compulsory wearing of uniforms benefits the students.

They are a great leveller. They make all students equal, preclude competition in expensive clothing between students and avert humiliation of children in poorer families.

Mr Wells said yesterday he would support a school's right to make students wear uniforms and would make a statement in Parliament in March to clarify the situation. But he said it would be up to parents and teachers at each school to decide.

The minister must be more definite than that. If a school decides against uniforms, who will police the dress standards of the children? How long should girls' skirts be? Should older girls be allowed to attend school bra-less? How short should boys' shorts be? Should rude T-shirts be allowed?

Principals and teachers have enough to do in educating our children. They should not be called upon to act as fashion arbiters and clothes police.

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