Evidence for Learning: School uniform

School uniform

A summary of the research evidence on school uniform in the Australasian context.

The Teaching & Learning Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of school uniform on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.

This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on school uniform. In contrast to the Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by school leaders, teachers and students. This information is valuable for school leaders and teachers interested in finding out more about particular examples of school uniform use in Australia and New Zealand.

This Australasian Research Summary was generated by Melbourne Graduate School of Education in 2016. 

While none of the studies in this review examined the link between school uniform and student achievement, these studies do indicate that school uniform is related to other facets of school life. The Australian-based study by Norrish, Farringdon, Bulsara and Hands (2012) examined the effect of school uniform design on incidental physical activity among 10 year olds. A repeated measures crossover design was used to compare school recess and lunchtime physical activity over four weeks in 64 primary school children (median age of 10.48 years) when wearing winter uniform or sports uniform. Mixed-model analyses found that girls, but not boys, were significantly more active at recess (p=0.03), lunch (p=0.04) and overall (p=0.006) when wearing their sports uniform as opposed to their winter uniform. School uniform did not impact on boys’ physical activity levels. The results showed that girls took more steps during recess and lunch when wearing their sports uniform.

Another Australian-based study by Watson, Eliott and Mehta (2015) examined physical inactivity amongst 12- to 13-year-old schoolgirls and their barriers to being active during school breaks. Data were gathered from four focus groups (n=13) across two South Australian schools, where students highlighted restrictions to being active. The restrictive nature of uniforms for female students (skirts, dresses) was one of the barriers to physical activity cited by participants.

Norrish, H., Farringdon, F., Bulsara, M., & Hands, B. (2012). The effect of school uniform on incidental physical activity among 10-year-old children. Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport & Physical Education, 3(1), 51 – 63.

Watson, A., Eliott, J., & Mehta, K. (2015). Perceived Barriers and Facilitators to Participation in Physical Activity during the School Lunch Break for Girls Aged 12 – 13 Years. European Physical Education Review, 21(2), 257 – 271.

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School uniform; achievement; school; Australia; academic achievement; New Zealand; meta-analysis.