Belair Public School introduces uniform options to help girls stay active

Room to move: Belair students Isabella Walshe in a skirt, Sammy Turner in grey shorts and Abigail Whittaker in a skort. Picture: Jonathan CarrollABIGAILWhittaker’sdecision to wear a skort to school boils down to her ability to perform an impressive trick.“It’s better than a skirt because I can do cartwheels – and it’s easier to run.”

The Belair Public School year three student is one of many girls whohave embraced the school’s new uniform options.

Principal Warwick Beard said girls were previouslyrestricted to wearing pinafores over blouses from kindergarten to year two, then skirts with blouses from years three to six. They added stockings in winter.

“But then a small group of very keen and dedicated parents approached the P&C about 18 months ago and introduced the idea of a more gender neutral skort [shorts with fabric resembling a skirt atthe front],” Mr Beard said.

The school holdsa five-yearly review of the uniform and the skort wasn’t supported when suggested about three years ago.

“But there was sufficient merit in the arguments being put forward to have another look at it,” he said.

“Changing a uniform in a school is always a challenging road to go down, you tend to have traditional people who love the way things are.

“We asked the kidswhat they thought and put the argument on the school Facebook page so the community could make an informed decision.

“At the end of the day, parentsstill have a choice. But it’s commonsense to give thisoption to our girls.

“We know some girls tend not to be as physically active because of the skirt, while for others it does not make a difference.

“There’s research that shows girls tend to be more active on the days where they can wear shorts, like sport days, compared to days whenthey have to wear a dress.”

Girls have been allowed to wear the same grey pants and shorts as the boys from mid last year and the skort from the start of this year.

The first 50 skorts sold out within the first fortnightand most of the next order has already been snapped up. Mr Warwick said the item has been equally popular across all grades.

“We have about 250 girls, so that’s one fifth of all the girls choosing a skort,” he said.

“It would not surprise me at all if over the next five years the skirt just disappeared.

“There’s not many placeswhere women don’t have an option –in banks they can wear a dress or trousers, nurses can wear pants –it’s really just reflecting where society is at the moment.”

Mr Beard said some of the male students had commented it was “silly” girls had to hold their skirts while playing soccer.

He said one mother said the skort made her daughter more comfortable riding a bike to school.

But student Isabella Walshe said she liked the skirt. She saidhers had space to grow into and “room to run”.