June 11, 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.

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.

  • 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.


  • I think it is essential part of school representation. It also teaches kids how to dress for certain activities or occasions. Taking pride in their school attire – looking after their clothing.


  • Formal school uniforms suck, they have to be ironed, they are uncomfortable, and while they do look nice they really don’t effect their learning, I would much rather my child wear a “sports uniform” than a formal uniform


  • I couldn’t agree with this anymore! I’ve never quite understood formal uniforms. I think they are a bit outdated. Anything to encourage physical activity and I think if the children are more comfortable they will put more into their learning

    • I agree. Learning comes with hard work and at times getting messy. A practical uniform makes sense for all activities. I am far more concerned about learning and education over formal appearance. A casual sports uniform is a good leveller too. It is far more important to respect everyone regardless of formal attire; valuing hard work always wins for our family over appearances.


  • Sports uniform for sure! Trousers and shorts make sense and are so practical and sensible.


  • Another disadvantage of the traditional uniform is that it doesn’t instill independence by our younger primary school kids to dress themselves; tiny buttons, ties, zips on the back, shoes with lacers. My youngest has Down Syndrome and is 7yrs and is not able to dress herself in the school uniform (however she is able to put on her sports uniform)


  • My younger children’s school uniform is mainly an all day uniform. Polo top with shorts, skorts or skirt. Track pants and jumper for cold days. Whatever happened to the uniform being able to be made at home.

    • Your kids uniform sounds like the perfect uniform !


  • I prefer the traditional uniform as I think it looks smarter. I feel like wearing a sports uniform everyday is like wearing trackies to work everyday, it just seems a bit daggy and lazy?! Just my opinion though…


  • I firmly believe there should be choice about uniform – to wear ‘traditional’ or wear ‘sport’ and each family/child can choose what they wear each day.
    I realise there are time the traditional uniform needs to be worn and I’m ok with this. But sports uniform not only is cheaper for families, but most importantly is more comfortable for kids AND allows all types of physical movement.
    From coming and going to school, to games at lunch time – traditional uniforms don’t allow the freedom of movement kids require. Running around in formal school shoes and pants does not encourage physical activity.
    it also adds to mending trousers with holes in knees, shoes ruined and kids being uncomfortable running or using play equipment.

    Majority of Schools now offer pants for girls which I’m a huge fan of and don’t believe schools can mandate girls have to wear skirts.
    I think the overall development of kids and activity levels would be much higher if they wore sports uniform every day. Allows them to walk/scoot/ride to school, play freely, do things like yoga in class and even activities such as floor work – which is now more common in schools than in my day. We were desk bound every day, but these days kids are on the floor, on bean bags or cushions or standing up to do work.

    And another big drop off in physical activity is high school – I can imagine that formal uniforms contribute to this.
    Having to change into PE gear not only is time consuming, but adds to kids items they have to take to school and increase lost items too!

    A choice at the least should be allowed – and therefore every child is catered for and comfortable.


  • When I went to school we didn’t even have a traditional uniform and seperate sports uniform. I guess ours was more like the sports uniforms and were in no way formal. I always thought it was just private schools that had the 2 seperate.


  • I prefer a dress uniform. They look much nicer and encourage kids to dress formally, preparing them for getting jobs. My high school used to allow time to change into a sport uniform when we did PE.


  • My school only let us wear it for PE class then we had to get changed in the locker rooms.


  • All the schools my children are at already do this.


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