EDUCATION Queensland receives many queries in relation to school uniforms by schools, uniform retailers and parents of state school students at the start of each school year. In particular, nearly all queries relate to school uniform trading by parents and citizens associations and retail outlets external to the school, the legal status of the school uniform standard and what to do if a student is not complying with this standard. The following is a selection of the most commonly asked questions regarding school uniforms and responses compiled by the Administrative Low and Legislative Operations Branch which set out the policy and legal position on each of these issues.

What policy/legislation should schools and P&C's selling uniforms take into account in setting their prices?

Occasionally some private suppliers of school uniforms have complained that they cannot match prices offered by those schools and parents and citizens' associations which have costs advantages over competing private suppliers.

There is presently no clear obligation in law upon schools and parents and citizens' associations to routinely adjust their prices upwards to match their private competitors indeed collusion with competing suppliers to fix prices could breach the Trade Practices Act 1974 Part IV competition rules.

Schools and parents and citizens' associations and other parts of the department should set their prices by taking account of the Financial Management Standard 1997, Part 3, Division 3 - User Charging which provides that regard must be had to the full cost of providing the goods or services.

The Standard, however, also states that a decision may be made to charge less than the full cost of the goods or services where, for example:

Although price setting, like the decision to trade or not to trade in school uniforms, is a matter for each school or P&C to decide, regard should be had to the fund-raising objectives of P&C and school business activities, sound business economics such as covering of costs, and the market conditions imposed on suppliers by what value consumers place on competing products from time to time.

In addition, generally when partaking in business activities relating to uniforms, to reduce breach exposure under Part IV of the Trade Practices Act 1974:

Do not participate in discussions with competitors regarding matters which are the subject of competition between you and a competitor such as:

Schools must comply with the State Purchasing Policy when acquiring goods and services.

Do not enter into any contract, arrangement or understanding with, or impose any condition, pressure or coercion on, any customer which would:

What impact does the Government's Competition Policy, therefore, have on schools' business activities where there are other private providers offering the same or similar goods or services?

The fact that private merchants also sell similar goods and services does not mean schools and P&C’s must cease their trading.

The Queensland Government's policy on restrictive trade practices confirms to all government bodies, including state schools, that they can compete vigorously in markets using pricing, standard of service, product benefits and other ethical means which do not involve illegal anti-competitive practices.

It should be borne in mind that the extension to schools and to P&C. of the legally enforceable competition rules under Part IV of the Trade Practices Act 1974 means that private sector traders of uniforms are also adequately protected from unfair competition.

Uniform Retailer complaints about P&C’s breaching the department's "Policy Statement 40".

Until recently, State schools selling uniforms took account of guidelines, issued by the Department of Education in 1991, entitled Policy Statement 40 - Sale of School Uniforms by State Schools.

Policy Statement 40 has now been rescinded, basically because it has been made redundant by post-1991 policy and legislation (most notably, the extension of Part IV of the Trade Practices Act 1974).

In relation to the code of fair trading conduct in Policy 40, some elements of that code artificially restricted competition with private traders and so were contrary to the government's Competition Policy.

The purpose of the Competition Policy reforms, including complying with the business competition rules under Trade Practices Act 1974 Part IV, is not to stifle trade - rather it aims to stimulate it so that the economy and business activity grows and consumers receive the pricing and quality benefits of robust competition.

Are schools obliged to give a minimum period of notice to private retailers stocking their uniforms in the event of a change of design?

On the issue of notice required to be given to retailers to dispose of school uniforms when. the schools decide to change-designs; there are no hard and fast rules.

Notification of design changes is a matter of commonsense and courtesy at the discretion of the school which takes into account the needs of the school community, including desired standards of future service and business relations for mutual benefit of the customers and suppliers, preferably achived by negotiation.

The market for state school uniforms is not insulated from normal commercial market conditions where clothing fashions and demand change, and where the fundamental business onus is on the retailer to liquidate out of date stock without unreasonable delay.



How does a school establish a school uniform standard?

Each school community should develop a student dress standard policy to meet local needs.

This policy must be developed in a collaborative process, having regard to fundamental principles such as access, participation, respect for others and continuity.

The final standard may be decided through a ballot, survey or other consensus techniques. DOEM module SC- 09: School Dress Standards sets out a process for the adoption of a student dress standard.

The student dress standard should be aimed at upholding a reasonable standard of appearance for students and to ensure the safety of students and staff.

The policy distinguishes between inappropriate dress and reasonable dress.

Inappropriate dress is that which is:

Reasonable dress, on the other hand, may not conform with the school's student dress standards, but nevertheless is socially acceptable.

The DOEM states that a school's student dress standard must be documented and referenced to the school's student behaviour management policy.

Care must be taken, however, that there is legal authority to enforce the sanctions imposed in the behaviour management policy.

The legal position in Queensland is that uniforms are not compulsory in any Queensland state school.


Furthermore, because schooling is compulsory, deprivation of educational instruction is not legally defensible if it occurs because of non-compliance with a student dress standard, which is not based on any legal or legislative authority. Therefore, it is not appropriate to detain, suspend or exclude a student due to non-compliance with a school uniform standard, as these sanctions require a level of either:

Nor is it appropriate to otherwise exclude the student from core curricula-activities so long as the student is not posing a health or safety risk to him/herself or others.


On the other hand, a "no-hat-no- play" sanction is appropriate, because the reason for the sanction stems from a concern for the welfare of the student rather than non-conformity with a certain standard, and it will not deprive the child from educational instruction'

It may similarly be necessary to prevent a student from entering a manual arts workshop without covered shoes, or asking a student to tie hair back or remove jewellery where there is a danger it may get caught in machinery.

If a student is inappropriately dressed, the principal should take action to prevent risk of injury to the student or others, or action that maintains the normal operations of the school.

The student's parents may be informed of the inappropriate nature of the dress, and to prevent recurrence discussions may he held between the parents, student, school and other members of the school community.

If a student persistently wears inappropriate dress, a process of conflict resolution or mediation may be implemented.

If a student is not conforming with the school uniform, though reasonably dressed, the principal may inform the parents that the dress is non-conforming and hold further discussions with the parents and student.

If a student is persistently not conforming with the school uniform, though reasonably dressed, the principal may use appropriate conflict-resolution or mediation strategies, which may involve other members of the school community.

It must also be remembered that any decision to impose a sanction against a student is a decision Which may be reviewable under the Judicial Review Act 1991.

From EDUCATION VIEWS Vol. 7, No 3 February 20, 1998 Page 8 with kind permission.

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