Parents of Whanganui High School seniors are being told not to fret over a uniform change many were concerned would force them into forking out for clothes that could be worn for as little as 16 weeks.

New uniform regulations say senior students, those in their final two years at school, should wear black shorts or black skirts costing $55 and $85 respectively.

The change followed a uniform review Whanganui High School carried out in 2017 and parents were notified of the change in an email at the end of that year, and again in a special newsletter in October.

The mother of a boy in Year 13 and a daughter in Year 12 said she had received the email outlining the changes, but it still came as a surprise to her.

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"Of course I read it and it said there would be a 15-month transition period and then I promptly forgot about it. As you do, because life happens.

"When I went to get the new uniform for my daughter, just a new top ... they said 'Oh right yes, the uniform is changing so if she wants a new skirt she'll have to get this black skirt', and I went 'Pardon?'"

She's buying her daughter, starting Year 12, the new skirt but she doesn't want to buy her son, who is in Year 13, a pair of shorts for one school year. All parents with Year 13 students had a right to be frustrated by the additional cost for clothes, she said, because the students might wear them for the only two summer terms, totalling 16 weeks.

The mother said her understanding was the transition period was still going at the beginning of the 2019 school year.

"My son is in Year 13 and he needs the new black shorts. But I'm looking at it that we still have a few months of the transition period left so I'm not getting him the black shorts at the moment and then in term four he can wear his formal uniform.

"It's a solution that will work for us rather than to spend money on an additional piece of clothing when he doesn't need it."

I'm concerned about black skirts and shorts for the seniors in the summer time because it's going to be hot ... I hadn't expected it to be black.

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The mother was also concerned the new uniforms would be uncomfortable, especially on hot summer days.

"I'm concerned about black skirts and shorts for the seniors in the summer time because it's going to be hot ... I hadn't expected it to be black."

She said a number of parents she had spoken to were also frustrated about the cost of buying clothes for such a short period of time,

Another parent of a Year 13 boy, Diana Jackson, said she was aware of many parents who were caught out by the change.

"Apparently the school sent an email December 2017 ... that's a while ago!

"I don't understand the need for any changes ... why have seniors in one colour and juniors in another? Most parents I've spoken to on social media aren't purchasing new $55 shorts for their last year of school.

"I'll probably get my son his ... but I'm really not happy. Surely more emails or notices in paper would have been beneficial, a lot of parents don't know. Even then I can't understand the need for black shorts and skirts ... grey's been fine for many years now. Why fix what isn't broken [especially] when money is tight for so many?"

It is always essential to have a period of flexibility in the first year any uniform items become compulsory

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Whanganui High School principal Martin McAllen has said the school would not be strict about the uniform change in 2019.

"It is always essential to have a period of flexibility in the first year any uniform items become compulsory," he said.

"I am also extremely aware of - and sensitive to - the great range of financial capacities and resources we have throughout our large school community of nearly 1500 students and whanau."

McAllen said a special newsletter outlining the 2019 uniform list was sent to parents in October 2018.

The uniform change was largely the result of a survey in 2017 that drew more than 800 responses from parents, students and staff.

The survey was compiled and assessed by a review team made of McAllen, as well as the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Randal Southee, board members, student representatives and teachers.

Andersons, the store that sells the uniforms, met with the review team to discuss what options were available.

The owner of Andersons, Darrell Smith, said he had not had too many complaints from parents coming into the store.

"I think the school's been fairly upfront with what it's done and tried to communicate. There may be the odd parent that feels they haven't been informed," Smith said.

He said they were starting to get more parents coming in as the school year got closer. Term one starts on January 28.

"It's starting to pick up ... starting to get a bit of volume rolling in the door. It'll just keep increasing as the month goes through."

Robyn Voullaire, the manager at Andersons' uniform shop, shows off the skirt and shorts seniors at Whanganui High School will start wearing.
Robyn Voullaire, the manager at Andersons' uniform shop, shows off the skirt and shorts seniors at Whanganui High School will start wearing.

Uniform chosen for its versatility

The new black skirt that makes up the senior girls uniform at Whanganui High School was chosen for its versatility, according to the manager of the uniform shop, Andersons.

Robyn Voullaire said the skirt will be able to be used for more than just going to school in.

"The reason that black skirt was chosen was because it's a simple plain, straight black skirt and it's a very, very nice quality skirt," she said.

"It's ideal for a senior student to wear to a job interview or to wear to an after-school job.

"It's a very, very simple garment to slide into an adult wardrobe as a basic. And it's something that you could wear for corporate. It's something that you could wear to just any job you could think of. It's also suitable to wear to a tangi."

She said the skirt was an A-line skirt that had a back vent allowing for mobility.

Andersons also buys old uniforms in relatively good condition, which helps parents transitioning their children to the senior uniform.