June 23, 2021


Many students across Australia wear traditional school uniforms. These consist of button-up shirts, tailored trousers, pleated skirts or tunics, and black leather shoes.

This is despite the fact most students, teachers and parents support a move away from traditional uniforms to ones more comfortable for students and more supportive of a range of activities they do at school.

Schools across Australia set their own uniform policy, informed by their jurisdiction’s education authority. Here are four reasons schools should consider offering students the option to wear sports-like uniforms every day, starting with the savings for parents.

1. Traditional uniforms are expensive

The average cost in Victoria for a primary-school student uniform appropriate for summer and winter, as well the sports uniform, is around A$330 on average. For secondary schools this increases to around an average of $526 per student. Catholic and independent school uniforms are consistently more expensive than ones in government schools.

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The biggest saving that comes from shifting to an everyday policy of sports uniforms is that parents don’t need to buy multiple uniforms. If parents only need to buy a sports uniform, this could save around $167 for primary-aged and $363 for secondary-aged students (based on Victorian figures).

Sports uniforms are cheaper than traditional uniforms. Most sports uniforms consist of a tracksuit, polo shirt with school logo, sport shorts and trainers – at a total average cost of $163. Increasing mass-production of a sports uniform may reduce this cost even further.

uniform cost
Matthew Mclaughlin, Author provided

2. Teachers, students and parents prefer sports uniforms

In a positive step, all government schools across Australia must now offer a shorts or trouser option to both boys and girls. Most schools choose to offer tailored shorts or trousers.

Read more:
School uniforms: what Australian schools can do to promote acceptance of gender diversity

Students don’t like wearing traditional uniforms. Studies show 62% of primary school students and 72% of secondary school students would prefer to wear a sports uniform every day.

Overall, four in five parents and six in ten teachers support a change in uniform policy allowing students to wear sports uniforms every day.

uniform preference
Matthew Mclaughlin, Author provided

3. Sports uniforms support physical activity

Most students think they would be more active if they could wear their sports uniform every day. Older students, who are generally less active, more strongly agree they’d be more active wearing sports uniforms every day.

Nine in ten parents agree school uniforms should support physical activity.

Most Australians recognise physical activity is good for physical and mental health. Beyond health, active students do better in class, having better concentration, attention and classroom behaviours, which can lead to improved academic performance.

school uniforms
Traditional school uniform (left) and sports uniform (right) can both include the school logo. Dr Steven Fleming, Author provided

Research suggests by changing from a traditional uniform to a sports uniform, primary-aged students can improve their physical activity. Changing to sports uniforms may be even more important for Australian girls, who are typically less active than boys.

But uniform changes are just one ingredient to increase young people’s physical activity. Combining factors such as the option to wear sports uniforms daily with classroom energisers, such as short active breaks from seated teaching, safe active travel routes to school (such as bike lanes) and subsidised cost of sport increases students’ physical activity.

Read more:
Short exercise breaks during class improve concentration for senior students

The sports uniforms make it easier for students to engage in these other types of activities on a daily basis.

school uniform reasons

4. Traditional uniforms are uncomfortable

“Uniforms hold me back from running”, was one of a number of reasons given by South Australian secondary school students to not being active at recess.

Unlike schools in other countries, we’ve heard some Australian primary schools do not have changing facilities to allow students to switch between active wear and traditional uniforms at recess.

Workplace dress policies are almost always appropriate for the type of work required by employees. For example, tradies wear reflective active wear. So why not in schools? In a country with a climate like Australia’s, we must ask if traditional school uniforms are fit for purpose.

Challenges and next steps

Only one-third of school principals support swapping to sports uniforms every day. Among the two-thirds who don’t support the change are those who they say sports uniforms are inappropriate for formal occasions. Half also say there is no evidence to support making a change.

school uniform2
Students could still wear the traditional uniform if they choose to. Dr Steven Fleming, Author provided


Read more:
Should school uniforms be compulsory? We asked five experts

We strongly encourage uniform suppliers to work with school departments to design sports uniforms that encourage physical activity, and that are also smart and appropriate for formal school occasions.

As a parent or student, you can ask your school to consider offering the option to wear a daily sports uniform.The Conversation

Matthew Mclaughlin, PhD Candidate, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle; Luke Wolfenden, Professor (Public Health), University of Newcastle; Nicole McCarthy, PhD Candidate, University of Newcastle, and Nicole Nathan, NHMRC MRFF Investigator, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Main photo Image Credit: Dr Steven Fleming

School uniforms VS Sport uniforms? Which do your kids prefer to wear? Tell us in the comments below.

  • Yes, yes, yes!!!


  • Yes I completely agree! Kids shouldn’t need such formal clothes for day day. Most office dress codes are far more relaxed than school uniforms! And teachers often dress in much more comfortable clothing than the students


  • What a great idea – I remember how uncomfortable my uniform was to wear in summer as it was so dang hot – a sports uniform would have been a welcome reprieve from the heat!


  • At my daughter’s high school, students are allowed to wear their winter sports trackpants and jackets everyday during terms 2 and 3 because they are warmer than the official uniform pieces. I support the idea of allowing students to wear their sports uniforms daily.


  • Yes definitely they should let kids allow to wear sport uniform every day !


  • I think schools should just have sports uniforms but with options.
    They should sell jackets, shirts, shorts, pants, skirts and sports dresses.
    The options should be you buy from that what your child will wear! If your daughter wants to wear pants and your son dresses then that should be acceptable too.
    I buy as much of the uniform as I can second hand at $5 an item. But even that adds up and second hand items sell so quickly! My kids school has a sports jacket and a formal jumper. The jumper is a close knit itchy type, which my son won’t wear because it a) is scratchy and b) bugs his eczema. This year it doesn’t matter if he wears his sports jacket every day but next year he will be strongly encouraged to wear jumper. However, the principal and teachers are quite understanding about things like that.


  • Sports uniforms is a great option so easy to clean dry and reuse too so comfortable


  • I agree that sports uniforms would be so much easier and much more comfortable if worn every day. As for uniformity , there is none, because just about every day of the week half the children wear their uniform while the other half wear sports uniforms.


  • I know my boys would have preferred to wear their sports uniform to instead of their school uniform. The only day they actually wanted to wear their school uniform was on the day school photos were taken. Not all families can afford to have their child educated as well as pay for 2 sets of uniform.


  • I agree. There is often such a mix of students wearing school vs sports on any given day. My son always found ways to get around wearing his school uniform and instead wearing sports uniform. And funny, it encouraged some kids to do lunchtime sports as it meant they could wear their sports uniform all day. It would be cheaper, more unisex, more comfortable. It’s time.


  • Formal uniforms do look good, but are certainly not as attractive to the children, and are far less comfortable. And yes, so much more expensive too. To encourage children to feel happy in their School and uniform, a more casual style would be a great alternative.


  • There is nothing more Beautiful to see your child dressed properly in full school uniform
    sports uniforms are only for sports days sorry


  • It sounds like a wonderful compromise to me. Everyone would still look neat in a sports uniform but they would also actively promote sports at the same time.


  • I hated wearing a uniform. I’m all for kids having a choice of sports or traditional


  • I do think that a formal uniform is nice I just think that if you choose a school where there school policy is to wear the formal uniform well you need to respect that.


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