Sweltering Massey High School students have launched a revolt over the school's new uniform, which bans shorts and knee-length skirts and requires students to wear ties and blazers year round.
A student yesterday launched an online petition on change.org calling for the decile 4 West Auckland school's board of trustees to bring back a summer uniform. The petition had almost 600 pledges of support by noon today.
The student behind the petition wrote on the website that the new uniform "looks sharp".
"But let's face it, it's a winter uniform -- definitely not suitable for Auckland's humid, hot summer weather. Lots of studies show students learn best when they are physically comfortable. Sweating profusely, or just plain distracted by the heat -- these things stop us achieving our educational potential," the student wrote.
He wanted a common-sense solution -- a summer uniform.
"Lots of well-regarded public schools, such as Auckland Grammar School, have a summer uniform. Why can't we?"
Many students were among those to pledge their support for the petition, alongside a large number of parents. Several parents commented that they were signing on their children's behalf.
Mum Lee Alesich signed in support of her Year 9 son and described the petition as "a brilliant idea".
"[Because] this uniform is killing our kids. They look great, they are amazing, but they need a summer uniform," she told the New Zealand Herald.
As far as she knew, the uniform was designed to make the children proud of themselves and their school -- and she applauded that. But the school also needed to be practical.
Her son was supposed to wear his blazer to and from school but, like other students, he instead carried it over his arm, Miss Alesich said.
"They cost $175 and our kids are carrying them around."
Another parent complained online that blazers should be compulsory only in winter. Her son had started to get bloody noses and her daughter headaches "and it's all because of what they have to wear everyday in this heat".
A commenter who identified herself as Chelsea MacDonald said the students' welfare was important.
"Students cannot 'Seek the Heights' [the school's motto] if they are sweating profusely and worrying about the heat. Give them a summer uniform. We are in NZ, not England!"
According to the MetService, daytime highs in Auckland have ranged between 23C and 28C since February 1, with two-thirds of those days reaching highs of at least 26C.
Some of the uniform changes are being implemented from this year, and not all students are affected yet.
Massey High School principal Glen Denham would not comment when contacted by the Herald.
On the school's website the uniform is described as a "symbol of the school to which pupils belong and of which they can be proud".
"The school expects students to maintain a high standard of grooming at all times. It follows that the uniform should be worn complete and in a way that reflects credit on both the wearer and the school. Uniform standards are vigorously monitored and students have a responsibility to conform to those standards."
Massey High School board of trustees chairman John Garelja was not aware of the petition. But he said the uniform had been well received by the school community, who were consulted before changes were made.
"We've had comments but the majority of parents are happy with the change."
However, he was prepared to hear from those who were unhappy. The board next met on Thursday.
Students were required to wear their blazers to school and between classes, but could use their own discretion when travelling home from school, Mr Garelja said.
"The students know that."
Trousers, which had previously only been worn by senior students, were introduced in place of shorts and knee-high socks because they looked smart. Rules on girls' skirt lengths changed after ongoing disagreements between school staff and students.
"There was always a lot of arguments at school over height, they got shorter and shorter and students were getting offside with staff.
"He acknowledged the high temperatures this month.
"Unfortunately, it's been extremely hot ... the heat is only an issue for a few weeks each year."
Parents praise petition
At the school this afternoon, a number of parents and students who spoke to the Herald praised the petition.
Several had signed it already and others were thinking about it.
One parent, who did not want to be named, said he made an effort to pick his son up in the car every time the weather was particularly hot, as he did not want him walking home in the heat.
"It would take him about 30 minutes to walk home and it's just too hot to be wearing a blazer and pants."
Another father said they were yet to purchase his daughter a school blazer because "she doesn't need it in this weather".
"I just said to her, 'Nah. We're not buying that'."
Several senior students - all decked out in long skirts or pants and blazers - said having a summer uniform would be much more comfortable.
Jouvelle Ngature, 16, said: "I think it's cool, but I think there should be a summer option for us. We can't wear Roman sandals - we have to wear socks and shoes - and we have to wear a tie all day. It's pretty hot."
Takitau Mapapalangi also praised the uniform as looking smart, but said a lot of the boys tended to sweat heavily.
Mina Woo, 17, suggested a vest be included in the uniform list.
"It would still look smart but not as hot."
Another Year 13 student, who did not want to be named, said many seniors had signed the petition in a bid to try to make a change for younger pupils.
Students said they were required to be in full uniform when arriving at school, during assemblies and when leaving the school gates.
Massey High School's new uniform
• Pleat-type skirt at mid-calf or ankle level or trousers instead of skirt.
• White Socks or black tights
• Black socks
• Year 9: $175 (compulsory purchase as part of uniform)
• Year 12: $120* (refund of $60 if returned in good condition)
• Year 13: $120*(refund of $120 if returned in good condition)
*Sponsorship subsidises Years 12 and 13 uniforms at $120 + GST. All other year levels are $175
** Year 10 and 11 students can purchase the new uniform, but it is not compulsory
• White shirts, although Years 10 and 11 can still wear striped shirts this year
• Ties compulsory and must be worn all year.
• The current black school jacket and the official school sports jacket with Massey High School written on the back remain.
No longer part of the uniform:
• Bucket hats