Page 3861 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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Members interjecting

MADAM SPEAKER: Order! I want to be able to hear Ms Burch.

MS BURCH: Madam Speaker, there are many differing views on uniforms within the community; but this feedback showed that over 80 per cent of parents fully supported the introduction and strengthening of the school uniform policy in high schools.

In follow-up focus groups, parents indicated a preference for school uniform options that were more “traditional” in style. This view has also been mirrored by high school students who themselves have called for more traditional uniforms at a number of public high schools. More and more across the ACT, students themselves are choosing more traditional items that identify them as attending a particular school.

To support schools in meeting community expectations for high school uniforms, the dress standards and uniforms in ACT public schools policy has been developed. It will provide clear guidance to schools, boards, parents, students and the community in developing a school dress standard and school uniform. The policy requires the wearing of a school uniform at primary and high school level, with a more traditional-style uniform option being offered at high schools. Colleges will continue to have a dress standard approach to school attire.

I believe strengthening of the uniform policy in our schools is a demonstration of the growing pride students have in attending public schools, and an increased sense of identity students have with their school. Parents also report they feel school uniforms create unity and a sense of belonging.

The benefits of a school uniform may include promoting safety of students through easier identification. Certainly, parents have commented on keeping the cost of clothing within reasonable limits. Many who have had adolescents in their families understand the pressure that can be applied to have the latest and the greatest gear. The benefits also include assisting students to learn the importance of appropriate presentation.

This renewed policy is a strong step forward for our high schools in continuing to be places that students have pride in and parents have confidence in. I am very pleased to have the overwhelming support of parents in implementing this policy.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Porter.

MS PORTER: Minister, how will this policy improve school pride and discipline in public schools, and what examples can you give to support this?

MS BURCH: Research suggests that uniforms contribute to positive student outcomes when included with a range of strategies designed to promote student identification with their school. There is strong evidence that school connectedness leads to increased academic outcomes, increased levels of student wellbeing and lower levels of violence and substance abuse. School uniforms in high schools are an important part of a school’s plan to support the ongoing development of school pride and a sense of identity across ACT public schools.

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