As a growing number of students explore their gender identity, individuality and how they want to express themselves, schools are providing increased uniform choices. Some schools in Victoria's south-west are moving away from the traditional gendered uniform with most providing pants and shorts options in a range of fits and styles. Some, such as Emmanuel College, have swapped specific gender terms such as boys' or girls' uniform, replacing them with options A or B. Girls' Uniform Agenda co-founder and director Simone Cariss has just surveyed 13 south-west non-government primary and secondary schools, after completing a similar study across Victoria of 150 schools. The south-west data found more than 92 per cent of the schools provided both shorts and pants options for girls. Only one primary school didn't have a shorts option, but female students could wear pants or culottes. She said their reasons for wearing pants or shorts included personal preference, comfort, warmth and modesty when being active. Ms Cariss said previously there was a lack of options for girls' pants and shorts but uniform suppliers had increased their offerings and access had improved regionally due to online shopping. She said a lot of schools were moving towards describing the clothing fit, such as a relaxed or tailored and students could choose what suited their body. "Ms Cariss began the volunteer-run advocacy group in 2017, motivated by the lack of choices available for her young daughter who wanted to "wear shorts like the boys". She said schools generally were "starting to listen and shift with the times". "The girls today are feeling more empowered. They have a voice and they're not afraid to use it," Ms Cariss said. While Victorian government schools made pants and shorts options for girls compulsory in 2018, Warrnambool College's non-gendered uniform dates back to 2016. Warrnambool College principal David Clift said there were no gendered aspects to its uniform which could be mixed and matched year-round. "Students can wear any of the uniforms on offer that they feel comfortable with and to reflect accurately their gender identity at school," he said. "We're not aware of many schools that have the significant wide range of uniform options available to them that they can wear on any given day." Mr Clift said the precondition for learning was feeling comfortable and safe. "If we can encourage and support that with the clothing students wear then that gives us a much better chance of the student feeling comfortable to continue their learning journey." Emmanuel College principal Peter Morgan said it had introduced changes, including shorts and pants for girls, over the past few years which reflected student diversity. IN OTHER NEWS Emmanuel College wellbeing co-ordinator Rachele Sloane said a growing number of young people were "exploring all of the dimensions of gender identity as part of their overall identity development". "There's lots of research and evidence around why a uniform is helpful in a school setting around connectedness, and that being part of your identity, but if we can make it expansive to make it really inclusive then that's what we're all going for. "Like every school we're seeing young people starting to explore the emerging space around gender and identity and all aspects of identity in different ways," Mrs Sloane said. "We have a large number of students who identify as non-binary or who are exploring their gender identity in a safe and supportive space. Brauer College principal Jane Boyle said it had included alternative options for a number of years. She said only "a few" girls wore pants and shorts, with most "choosing to follow the traditional uniform". King's College principal Allister Rouse said it introduced shorts and pants for girls and leggings for senior PE students last year. "It's been really popular," Mr Rouse said. "Shorts give the primary school girls more modesty when they're climbing and hanging upside down on the play equipment and more confidence in being able to play." Emmanuel College year 10 student Emily Rankin wears a dress because a single-option is easiest, while her classmate EJ Gass wears shorts and alternates between pants and a skirt in winter. Together with their friend Eleanor Trussler, the students are pleased to see a broader societal shift and greater acceptance and appreciation of diversity. "Throughout history there has been people who identify as a different gender or have a different sexuality," Emily said. "It's always been a thing it's just more expressed now." Warrnambool College year 12 student Charlotte Townsend said she had worn shorts or pants until this year because she "struggled to feel comfortable in a dress for a long time".