Policy last updated
15 June 2020
- School councils
This policy sets out requirements for schools and school councils to develop, implement and review their student dress code policies.
- All school councils have the authority to develop dress codes for their students, should they choose to do so.
- School councils must work with their school communities in developing and reviewing dress codes.
- School councils are responsible for deciding on arrangements for the supply of school uniform items.
- The principal may determine the consequences to be imposed on an individual student for not complying with the student dress code, in accordance with the relevant school and Department policies.
- All student dress codes must:
- meet human rights and anti-discrimination requirements
- include an exemption process
- include health and safety considerations
- explain requirements relating to uniform supply arrangements
- be communicated clearly to students and parents or carers
School councils have the authority to develop dress codes for their students, including:
- whether or not the school will have a school uniform, and whether or not any such uniform will be compulsory
- clothing for specific activities (such as sport, laboratory experiments, bags)
- exemption grounds
- methods of enforcement (provided they are consistent with the Department and local school policies on discipline and student engagement)
Dress code consultation
If a school council decides to develop a dress code, they must work with their school communities in developing and reviewing dress codes. The school council should carefully consider the forms of consultation that will be undertaken in developing or reviewing a dress code. Please refer to the Developing and Reviewing Dress Codes section of the Guidance tab for further advice regarding modes of consultation.
Compliance with human rights and anti-discrimination law
Student dress codes must comply with human rights and anti-discrimination legislation.
Refer to Human Rights section in the Guidance tab for further explanation of these requirements.
Implementing and enforcing dress codes
If a student dress code is developed, schools must:
- communicate their dress code to the school community. Refer to the Implementing and Enforcing Student Dress Codes section of the Guidance tab for guidance on ways to communicate dress codes to the school community
- assist families having difficulties with uniform costs. For more information about assisting families who may have difficulty meeting the cost of uniform requirements, please refer to the State Schools' program.
- ensure that measures used to enforce the dress codes are consistent with the Department’s Student Engagement Policy and Guidance and the school’s Student Engagement Policy. Refer to the Implementing and Enforcing Student Dress Codes section of the Guidance tab for further advice
Health and safety considerations
Student dress codes must take into account health and safety considerations relating to sun protection and risks from jewellery, cords, chin straps, drawstrings or school bags. Refer to the Health and Safety section in the Guidance tab for further advice.
Schools must have an exemption process in their dress code policy and must follow the exemption process contained in the Exemption Procedures in the Guidance tab.
Uniform supply arrangements
- are responsible for deciding on arrangements for the supply of school uniform items
- must comply with written agreements with clothing suppliers and may be subject to legal proceedings if a dispute arises between the parties
- must not make any misrepresentations while making agreements with suppliers (for example, misrepresenting the number of students at the school)
For further guidance on uniform supply arrangements, refer to the Uniform Supply Arrangements section of the Guidance tab.
Policy template available
A Student Dress Code Policy is available on the School Policy Templates (staff login required). Schools can modify the template to suit their local circumstances
A written statement of school council expectations regarding student appearance. A dress code applies during school hours, while travelling to and from school, and when students are engaged in school activities out of school hours. A dress code may:
- define standards for the general presentation of students
- set out broad guidelines about student appearance
- require students to wear a school uniform
- define expectations for garment design and colour
- Age Discrimination Act 2004
- Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- Education and Training Reform Act 2006
- Education and Training Regulations 2017
- Equal Opportunity Act 2010
- Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975
- Sex Discrimination Act 1984
Student Dress Code Guidelines
These guidelines contain advice for schools about legal requirements and best practice when developing, reviewing and implementing dress codes at a local school level. The guidelines contain the following chapters:
- Developing and reviewing dress codes
- Exemption procedures
- Health and safety considerations
- Human rights requirements
- Implementing and enforcing student dress codes
- Parent complaints
- Uniform supply arrangements
- Dress code legislation
Developing and reviewing dress codes
Developing and reviewing dress codes
Identifying the purpose of student dress codes
It is best practice for school councils to ensure that the dress code purposes are clearly identified.
These purposes may include:
- a sense of identity and pride
- cohesion and good order in the school
- allowing all students to feel equal
- preventing bullying and competition on the basis of clothing
- ensuring students’ appearance reflects the expectations of their school community
- enhancing the profile and identity of the school and its students within the wider community
- strengthening the spirit of community within the school
- enhancing individual student safety and group security
- ensuring all students are dressed safely and appropriately for school activities
- encouraging students to develop pride in their appearance
- preparing students for the expectations of workplaces
- encouraging students to present themselves appropriately for a particular role
The school council must carefully consider the forms of consultation that will be undertaken in developing or reviewing a dress code. For example consultation could include:
- letters to parents and carers
- information in newsletters
- public meetings
- student meetings
- focus groups
- information on the school website
This consultation process must:
- explain the purposes of the dress code and the reason for any proposed changes
- guarantee opportunity for the viewpoints of parents or carers, teachers and students to be expressed. The mechanism for consultation must be identified in the student dress code policy or, alternatively, be recorded in school council minutes
- where appropriate, translate material into community languages, or employ an interpreter for meetings
- outline any proposed changes to uniform supply arrangements
- provide for careful consideration of any information and viewpoints collected in the consultation process before finalising the decision-making process
- seek out and consider the views of different groups within the school community (such as from different cultural, religious or ethnic backgrounds or other groups that may have additional needs)
- allow for careful consideration of the practicality of garment design, materials used in construction, and the cost implications of proposed items
- provide a timeline for implementation of the dress code.
The school council must be able to demonstrate to its school community that it has considered the cost implications of its selected school uniform and taken into account the ability of its parent population to afford it.
Student Dress Code Content
As the dress code takes precedence over a student’s individual preferences, it is best practice for the school council to consider if the dress code:
- is compliant with federal and state anti-discrimination laws — refer to the chapter on Human rights requirements
- clearly outlines:
- the rights and responsibilities of parents and carers, students and the school, including
- how parents, carers or students apply for an exemption from the dress code
- is respectful of the cultural norms of the school community
- is reasonable by contemporary standards and avoids unnecessarily intruding on students’ rights in matters of personal appearance
- allows for individual expression through alternatives within overall garment requirements
- is suitable to the role of a student and the tasks and functions they perform
- takes into account health and safety issues
- allows students to dress comfortably in all weather conditions
- provides clothing for sports or physical education that is practical and that all students will feel comfortable wearing
- supports informal or incidental physical activity such as lunchtime sport, walking or cycling to school
- is communicated clearly to students, parents or carers prior to enrolment, providing a basis of assent
- requirements can be met by all students and parents/carers. The range and cost of garments should reflect the capacity of families to provide them
- is supported by strategies to assist families who may have difficulty meeting uniform costs and this information is communicated to the school community
- outlines the dress code complaints/concerns process
- outlines the consultation and decision-making processes for reviews and amendments
- will be reviewed if circumstances change significantly
It is best practice for school councils to document their dress code consultation and development process as evidence that they have consulted with their school community.
The school council’s dress code policies, and details of the consultation process that was followed may be required as evidence, or used by bodies such as Ombudsman Victoria, in resolving disputes.
Religious and cultural requirements
Some students may wish to observe particular religious and cultural requirements while also complying with the school dress code. These could include:
- head coverings
- facial hair
- clothing lengths
- adornments such as certain jewellery
Schools must discuss these requirements with students and parents or carers to ascertain their cultural and religious significance and how they might be accommodated within the school’s dress code policy.
Schools must include exemption processes in their local school-based Student Dress Code and follow the exemption process outlined below to comply with obligations under human rights and anti-discrimination legislation.
Exemptions allow school councils to impose uniform standards on all students but still recognise cases in which the application of those standards affects some students unequally.
Legal grounds for exemptions exists when:
- an aspect of the code:
- prevents students from being able to attend school or participate in school activities on the same terms as other students because of the personal characteristics referred to in human rights and anti-discrimination requirements
- offends a religious belief held by the student, parents or carers
- prevents students from complying with a requirement of their religious, ethnic or cultural background
- the student has a particular disability or health condition that requires a departure from the dress code
- the student or the parents or carers can demonstrate particular economic hardship that prevents them from complying with the dress code
Further grounds for exemption may be allowed at the principal's discretion.
The exemption process should only be necessary in exceptional circumstances as a dress code should accommodate the needs of all students.
The principal is responsible for managing and conducting the exemption process. In exceptional circumstances another staff member at the school or regional office may be appointed to consider an exemption request.
The exemption process
These stages describe the exemption process.
- Parents, carers or students approach the principal for an exemption.
- The principal:
- considers the grounds for exemption
- explains the exemption process to the applicant
- guarantees that issues of a personal nature revealed to substantiate the request will be strictly confidential
- encourages the applicant to support their case with evidence
- The principal seeks to negotiate a resolution that is acceptable to all parties. This may include:
- a modification of the dress requirements rather than a complete exemption
- granting assistance to allow compliance with the dress code without embarrassment or stigma — for example, when the exemption is sought for economic purposes
- conditions under which the exemption is allowed
- The principal:
- grants an exemption, or
- provides reasons in writing when an exemption is not granted
- The principal keeps a written record of
- all the decisions made, and
- the reasons provided, in case a decision is questioned
If the principal is consistently granting exemptions on similar grounds, the school council should review its dress code to try to meet these needs within the code.
Health and safety considerations
Health and safety considerations
- with a uniform must ensure a sun protective hat is included, at least as an option, as part of the uniform
- without a uniform must permit sun protective hats in their dress code
Note: Schools should encourage students to wear a sun protective hat outside whenever UV levels reach 3 or higher. In Victoria UV levels are typically three and above from mid-August to the end of April.
Jewellery, cords, chinstraps and drawstrings
Jewellery, hat cords, chinstraps and drawstrings present risks of injury or strangulation, particularly:
when worn in the head and neck area
- for primary students engaged in active outdoor play
When developing a dress code, schools should consider:
- the jewellery students are permitted to wear
- selecting hats or other garments without:
- chinstraps, or
- using safety cords designed to detach if caught
Carrying school bags may pose risks of back pain or damage due to:
- poor design or poorly fitting school bags
- students carrying bags incorrectly
- students carrying loads that are too heavy
Schools should select school bags that:
- minimise the risk of back injury to students
- are endorsed by an Australian professional organisation such as the:
- consider strategies to prevent students from carrying loads that are too heavy
Human rights requirements
Human rights requirements
By upholding human rights and anti-discrimination legislation, schools can:
- support a safe and inclusive school environment where the school community feels:
- supported, and
- physically and emotionally secure
- ensure that their dress codes enable all students to participate fully in school life
- increase the sense of belonging to and engagement with schools for students:
- from all backgrounds including, religious, linguistic and cultural background
- regardless of personal characteristics, such as, disability, health condition, gender identity.
- model appropriate behaviour for resolving issues and promote mutual respect for all members of the school community
- build effective relationships with:
- parents or carers
- students and staff from diverse cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds
Human rights and anti-discrimination requirements relevant to dress codes
Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)
Requires that students are not discriminated against (directly or indirectly) on the grounds of personal characteristics, such as: age, disability, gender identity, physical features, race, religious belief, sex or sexual orientation.
- Direct discrimination may occur where a school has different uniform requirements for students with different personal characteristics and this difference results in one group of students being treated less favourably than another.
- Indirect discrimination occurs when treating everybody the same way disadvantages someone because of a personal characteristic. For example, a school's physical education uniform could discriminate indirectly against female Muslim students, if by wearing it, they were not able to conform to their cultural or religious requirement to dress modestly.
- For a full list of personal characteristics protected under State equal opportunity law, visit: Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights
Allows schools to set and enforce reasonable standards of dress and appearance for students.
- The more extensive, engaging and collaborative the consultation process, the more likely it is to be considered reasonable.
- A standard is considered reasonable if the school has taken into account the views of the school community in setting it.
Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006
Schools and school councils must act and make decisions consistently with human rights requirements.
Schools must treat students equally and need to balance the rights of individual students against the best interests of the school community as a whole when developing and implementing their dress codes
- For more information on the Charter, including training modules and policy guidance see: Human Rights Charter.
Rights may be subject to reasonable limits that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society taking into account factors such as: the nature of the right, the importance and purpose of the limitation; and whether any less restrictive means could reasonably achieve the same purpose.
Where a school has good reason for restricting an individual's freedoms around dress and appearance, then the restriction of their rights may be considered reasonable.
A school should consider ways of accommodating individuals' rights while maintaining a suitable standard of dress and appearance, for example, through an exemption process, or through providing suitable options within the dress code.
Federal anti-discrimination legislation
It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex, gender identity, intersex status, disability, age and race.
- This applies regardless of whether the views of the school community have been taken into account.
Note: Dress codes with gender specific requirements are not necessarily discriminatory under the law. However, schools and school councils are expected to develop, as far as practicable, dress code requirements that are similar for all students. Where options are available, they should be available to all students. In particular, all schools must allow girls the option of pants and shorts in their dress code.
Implementing and enforcing student dress codes
Implementing and Enforcing Student Dress Codes
Communicating the dress code
The student dress code, including any changes in dress requirements must be:
- communicated widely throughout the school community
- provided to all prospective students and parents and carers prior to enrolment at the school
- translated into community languages, if required
- communicated via a translator, if required, for example at an information night
Important: Schools must ensure that students and parents and carers are aware that they can apply to the principal for an exemption to the dress code.
Support for Families
Schools must investigate options for supporting families who may have difficulty meeting the cost of uniform items. Schools must include information about support options or strategies for supporting parents in these circumstances on their website, parent payments policy or in their dress code and ensure this information is communicated to the school community.
State Schools’ Relief also provide assistance with school clothing and footwear via school principals. Principals assess requests for assistance and can send an application to State Schools’ Relief when they believe there is a need to support a student whose family is facing difficulty in providing the appropriate uniform items for schools. State Schools Relief provides articles of clothing for students either directly to the family or through an authorisation to the school clothing shop or local supplier.
Schools may choose to include appropriate measures to enforce their dress code in their student engagement policy. The Department’s Student Engagement Policy and Guidance supports schools to create a positive school culture, clearly articulating school-wide expectations and consistent processes to address areas of concern in a staged manner. The principal of a government school may determine the consequences to be imposed on a student for not wearing the school uniform in accordance with a determination on school uniforms made by the school council and any Ministerial Order in relation to student discipline.
Students should not normally be excluded from class or sent home for infringements of the student dress code as dress code infringements are not usually linked to interference with the rights of other students or the capacity of a teacher to teach a class.
Exceptions to this might include issues of safety or where students are representing the school.
Parents, carers or students can:
- raise specific complaints about the dress code with the school see: Parent Complaints
- suggest desired dress code changes to the school council for consideration in the next review of the dress code
Uniform supply arrangements
Uniform Supply Arrangements
When deciding on a uniform supplier, school councils should consider:
- quality of items
- quality control of the supplier
- reliability, continuity and lead time of supply
- ability of manufacturers/suppliers to meet required delivery deadlines
- selecting Australian made items or using local businesses
- selecting manufacturers/suppliers that can provide evidence that they meet ethical manufacturing standards (see: )
- sustainable production of items
- how and where parents or carers can purchase items
- cleaning requirements and costs
- returns policy for faulty stock
- re-use or recycling of items
Schools must formalise arrangements with their chosen supplier by using one of the Department's approved agreement templates. It is important to have a written agreement as this enables the school council to enforce the terms of its agreement and ensures that both parties are clear about their rights and obligations.
The Department has three agreement templates relating to school uniforms. These are:
- School Council Licence — School Uniform Business :
- to license an area of the school to a supplier to sell the uniform from a designated area in the school
- School Council Agreement for the Appointment of School Uniform
- to appoint a supplier to sell the school uniform from the supplier’s retail premises
- School Council Agreement for the purchase of school uniforms for :
- to purchase school uniforms from a supplier, and then
- on-sell the school uniform directly to students and their families
Dress code legislation
Dress Code Legislation
The following information describes the legislative basis for dress codes by Act, Regulation or Order.
Ministerial Order under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic)
Authorises the school council to develop a dress code that covers any matters which a school council considers appropriate in relation to:
- clothing and other items worn, carried or used
- physical appearance and the general presentation of students
Section 26(1)(c) — Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic)
States that the principal of a government school may determine the consequences to be imposed on a student for not wearing the school uniform in accordance with:
- a determination on school uniforms made by the school council and
- any Ministerial Order in relation to student discipline
But the principal must be satisfied that the:
- student's failure to wear the uniform was because of the student's disobedience
- consequences must be reasonable, and
- dress code policy has been brought to the attention of the students and parents.
Section 42 — Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)
States that an educational authority may set and enforce reasonable standards of dress and appearance for students:
- where a standard of dress and appearance for students is considered reasonable
- when the views of the school community have been taken into account in setting the standard
A template Student Dress Code is available on the School Policy Templates Portal (staff login required). Schools can modify the template to suit their local circumstances.
The three agreement templates relating to school uniforms, are:
- School Council Licence — School Uniform (staff login required)
- School Council Agreement for the Appointment of School Uniform (school uniforms to be supplied at Supplier’s retail premises) (staff login required)
- School Council Agreement for the purchase of school (for on-sale by the School Council) (staff login required)
Student Dress Codes — Good practice case — includes example exemption requests including:
- Case Study 1: Exemption request for a facial piercing
- Case Study 2: Exemption request on religious cultural grounds
Reviewed 27 March 2020