Sometimes school rules are just downright absurd.

The most recent example comes from The Gap State High School (TGSHS) in Brisbane, who have enforced a pretty hardline uniform policy. At the beginning of 2018, they introduced a rule, which stipulates that students have to wear black, lace-up shoes with “a heel, no greater than 20mm and no less than 5mm”.

It’s a very specific heel size – meaning that flat-soled shoes, like black leather Vans for example, are prohibited but then higher heeled shoes, like Docs, are too high. The result is that more than a hundred students reportedly copped detention last week.

One angry mum (never underestimate an angry mum) wrote on Facebook, “My daughter has a perfectly good brand new pair of black leather shoes for school yet it seems they don’t comply! …Just give my child an education please.”

Another parent said, “I would have thought the school had a long list of far more significant issues to address than the height of the heels on the kids shoes. This is utterly ridiculous. Embarrassingly so.”

And fair enough. Are students going to have to have their shoes measured with a tape measure before school each day? That sounds pretty embarrassing for both students and teachers tbh. And is that really the kind of world we want to live in?

The Education Minister

Surprisingly, the Queensland Education Minister, Grace Grace, backed the school’s policy. She claimed that the number of detentions was exaggerated and that the parents had plenty of time to comply with the rule.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education said, “Ultimately, local school communities — including P&Cs and principals — are best placed to determine individual school uniform policy.”
But there were plenty of comments online from parents and citizens that criticised the policy.

As one parent said: “Seriously, there are kids committing suicide because of bullying around the country and this school is worried about shoes? #priorities.”

A rule that disproportionately affect people with less money

Being told you need to buy new shoes is annoying, but when you can’t afford them, it can transcend annoying and become embarrassing. Essentially, the policy is much more of a strain for those who don’t have the luxury of a disposable income to spend on multiple pairs of shoes.

“We’re a single-income household, it’s just me,” one mother explained. “No-one really has money to burn so she will have to wear them,” said another.

So what happens to the students who can’t afford new shoes? Do they just have to cop detention every day until they can afford new shoes? That sounds a bit rough, regardless of the rules.

So, do uniforms provide a better education?  

There’s a common conception that school uniforms increase student achievement, attendance and instil a sense of community in students. But the results definitely aren’t solid on that one.

As Todd DeMitchell, a university professor of education wrote in The Conversation, “It’s true that some studies show a reduction in the incidence of misbehavior. But then, there are others that show an increase in student suspensions. A few others show no significant change in student misbehavior.”

He accepts that uniforms might improve some aspects of schooling, but concludes that, “school uniforms alone cannot bring about a sustained or large-scale change”.

To be clear though, this isn’t even an issue with uniform, it’s an example of absurd bureaucracy. We live in an age where schools painstakingly measure everything – from ATAR results to shoe-sole height.

Maybe schools should start measuring the satisfaction and wellbeing of students, parents and teachers. Then again, the results might get a little too real for them.