WACSSO president weighs into uniform debate


WACCSO president Kylie Catto.
WACCSO president Kylie Catto.

THE head of WA’s peak P&C group has spoken out about expensive uniforms and the banning of shorts at a public high school in Mandurah.

WA Council of State School Organisations (WACCSO) president Kylie Catto said a change in uniform tended to coincide with public schools transitioning to Independent Public School (IPS) status.

The IPS program allows schools to manage their own finances, hire teachers of their choice and choose their own programs.

There are more than 15 IPS schools in Mandurah and Pinjarra.

Ms Catto said they had received comments from parents saying the uniform does need changing, as current uniforms were outdated.

“However, we don’t see why it requires a shift to IPS for dress codes to be reviewed,” Ms Catto said. “It should be based on need.”

Ms Catto said some parents end up out of pocket from $200 to $400 when it comes to buying a complete uniform, including winter/summer uniforms and accessories.

“The cost would be relevant to the individual family and what may be affordable for some is cost-prohibitive for others,” she said.

“We encourage school councils (boards) to be cognisant of affordability when determining their school’s dress code.

“I definitely don’t think it should be about having a more ‘private school’ looking uniform; clothes aren’t the domain of any one school system.

“Education shouldn’t be about competition and comparison.

“It should be practical, affordable and achievable to ensure maximum compliance and be something students want to wear.”

Ms Catto said parents get frustrated when new uniforms are not functional or practical.

“In the recent case reported in the media of a school banning the wearing of shorts by female students (for other than sport) we can’t see the practical reasoning behind this,” she said.

“The Federal government is encouraging more physical activity by young women and wearing skirts is not always conducive to this.

“Everybody has a different body shape or size, so different options should be provided to cater for most. In the Australian summer shorts may be far more comfortable and practical to wear, if it’s ok for the boys why not for the girls?”

Ms Catto said they receive more concerns than complaints when the uniform is changed.

“Often parents just don’t know who to turn to,” she said.

“Parents are generally supportive of dress codes and see the benefit they have – removing the competitive aspect of brand label clothes, giving a sense of identify and belonging.

“Parents are concerned when uniforms are changed to bespoke or specialty colours and designs which prohibit the purchase of generic items which are often more affordable.”

Ms Catto said the school council is responsible for setting the dress code for the school and said parents should approach them if they have issues with the uniform.

“Parents and community members must form the majority composition of all councils,” she said.

“Where parents have concerns about uniforms then we strongly encourage them to raise it through their elected parent representative to the council.”

Ms Catto said school councils form their own behaviour management policies and dress codes.

“WASSCO’s policy is that no student should be barred from school activities (unless for health or safety reasons), or punished in any other way for not complying with school dress-code requirements,” she said.