Dunedin school ends strict 'boys' and 'girls' uniforms

A growing number of Kiwi schools are opening up uniform choices to their students, regardless of gender.

A growing number of Kiwi schools are opening up uniform choices to their students, regardless of gender.

A Dunedin intermediate school is doing away with boys and girls uniforms, instead letting their students wear whatever items they like.

Students at Dunedin North Intermediate have five options which they can pick from regardless of their gender: trousers, skirts, kilts, culottes, and shorts.

Principal Heidi Hayward said the change was a practical way to value diversity.

Principal Heidi Hayward says the move was just a reasonable one to make.
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Principal Heidi Hayward says the move was just a reasonable one to make.

"This isn't about doing something radical, it's about giving kids some choice and valuing diversity. It's about saying to kids 'you're here to learn and we want you to be comfortable'."

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"There are lots of stereotypes that are kind of implicit in society early on and have a long-lasting effect on people. We want to get across to our kids that we appreciate that you aren't all the same."

The change came after incoming female students in late 2015 asked why they would have to wear the traditional skirt.

Hayward, who had recently started the job, realised she couldn't think of a good reason.

"I couldn't really argue with their thinking," she said.

"If I was told that I was expected to wear a skirt every day to work because I'm a female, well, I can tell you what my response would be.

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"This was a good example of where we [were] out of step with society's norms, so we said 'fair enough' and changed it."

The change happened gradually - at the start of 2016 girls could wear the boys trousers, but this resulted in further problems.

"They were quite often asked, you know, 'are you a boy or a girl?'. So we added another option of culottes, then at the end of the year we just took away the labels, so there is no longer a boys' uniform or girls' uniform, they can just wear whatever they are comfortable in."

Hayward was somewhat bemused by the media attention.

"We didn't do a great deal of navel gazing about it. It just sounded reasonable really."

Feedback has been largely positive, with kids simply accepting the move.

"Nobody has been negative, but parents have had more questions that the kids. The kids just accept the options and get on with it."

This isn't the school's only uniform innovation. The school jersey has also been matched with the jersey of nearby Logan Park High School, meaning kids going on to there already have one piece of their uniform ready.

 - Stuff

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