Australian School Student’s Changing Attitudes Towards School Uniforms

A research team has been assembled for this project at Hunter New England Population Health and the University of Newcastle. Consisting of leading physical activity, implementation and school-based researchers, the team will work in collaboration with health and education sector representatives, to determine the impact that school uniforms may be having on student’s perceived and actual physical activity.

Australian student physical activity in schools has been consistently shown to be less than government-mandated requirements. Similarly, studies in the UK and USA have found that more than half of primary school children are not meeting the recommended physical activity guideline of 30 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during school hours, or spending the recommended 40% of their recess/lunchtime engaged in MVP. It has been hypothesised that one of the reasons for this lack of physical activity at school may be due to impractical school uniforms restricting movement.

Research conducted to date in the Hunter New England area, surveyed 832 primary school students in Grades 4- 6. The paper survey reported a high proportion of students would prefer their sports uniforms over traditional uniforms, with the majority believing this would increase their activity levels. Read the letter here.

Similar findings have been found with secondary students. A study was undertaken with a cohort of 928 Grade 8 students from 23 secondary schools in New South Wales (NSW) Australia. The students responded to an online survey, to questions about; their school’s uniform rules, their own attitudes about wearing school uniforms and any perceived impact they believed uniforms may have on their physical activity. Find a summary of the research findings here.

The findings of a pilot randomised control trial to determine if wearing a sports uniform actually results in more physical activity whilst students are at school are under review and, due for publication in 2020.

For further details, please contact Nicole McCarthy at

Research Papers:

Nathan N, McCarthy N, Hope K, Sutherland R, Lecathelinais C, Hall A, Lane C, Trost S, Yoong SL, Wolfenden L. The impact of school uniforms on primary school student’s physical activity at school: outcomes of a cluster randomized controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2021 Jan 23;18(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s12966-021-01084-0. PMID: 33485340; PMCID: PMC7825216.

McCarthy N, Hope K, Sutherland R, Campbell E, Hodder R, Wolfenden L, Nathan N. Australian Primary School Principals’, Teachers’, and Parents’ Attitudes and Barriers to Changing School Uniform Policies From Traditional Uniforms to Sports Uniforms. J Phys Act Health. 2020 Sep 3;17(10):1019-1024. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2020-0116. PMID: 32882680.

McCarthy N, Nathan N, Hodder R, et al. Australian primary school student’s attitudes to changing from traditional school uniforms to sports uniforms and association with student characteristics. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2019;43(1):94-95. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12851

McCarthy N, Nathan N, Hope K, Sutherland R, Hodder R. Australian Secondary school student’s attitudes to changing from traditional school uniforms to sports uniforms Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2019; 22(2):45. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2019.08.116



The program of work is supported by the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), Hunter Children’s Research Foundation (HCRF), Hunter New England Population Health and the University of Newcastle.  Authors of the letter and poster are supported as follows: NN is supported by an NHMRC TRIP Fellowship (APP1132450) and a Hunter New England Clinical Research Fellowship, LW is supported by a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship (No. 101175), an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (APP1128348) and a Hunter New England Clinical Research Fellowship.