Schools will be required by LAW to keep uniform costs down from 2022

Schools in England will be required by LAW to keep uniform costs down with ban on unnecessary branded items from September 2022 and must ensure second-hand uniforms are available for pupils

  • Government issued new rules today ahead of the 2022/23 school year 
  • Schools will be legally required to keep uniform costs down for all students
  • Second-hand uniform will also have to be available as part of a green initiative 
  • Changes are part of the Education (Guidance About Costs of School Uniform) Bill which passed in April
  • Rules mean parents should save hundreds of pounds a year in uniform costs
  • Government says their goal is to make sure uniform costs do not influence school choice and limit students’ opportunities

Schools in England will be required to help keep uniform costs down by removing unnecessary branded items from their uniform list and selling second hand items.

The Department for Education (DfE) published new statutory guidance for schools on Friday instructing them to ensure their uniform is affordable from September 2022.

Schools are expected to have taken steps to adhere to the new rules before parents buy uniform for the next academic year potentially saving families hundreds of pounds a year.

The Education (Guidance About Costs of School Uniform) Bill which was passed in April this year, makes guidance given to schools about the cost of uniform policies legally binding.

Schools will be encouraged to switch to generic uniforms in a bid to bring down sky-high uniform costs which have reached £337 a year per child for secondary students according to The Children’s Society

Schools are being advised to keep branded items to a minimum and also to make sure that uniform is affordable in the new guidance.

Schools will also be advised to only enter into single-supplier contracts when they provide the best value for money and are retendered at least every five years.

The guidance also sets out that uniform policy should be made after consulting parents and that the rules should be set out clearly on school websites.

The Government has also advised schools to make second-hand options available in order to reduce the carbon footprint of school uniform as it continues its push to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

DfE research showed that in 2015, parents were saving £50 per uniform when their child’s uniform could be bought from any shop rather than a school-recommended supplier. 

Under current rules, school uniform can cost an average of £337 a year for secondary schools and £315 for primaries, according to The Children’s Society. 

The bill was first introduced by Labour MP Mike Amesbury and it received cross-party support.

Single-supplier contracts will be advised against unless they are regularly reviewed with a new competitive tender process at least once every five years to keep prices low

The bill passed in April but DfE’s guidance was not published in time for the start of the 2021/22 school year.

The Government was criticised for the delay at the time by stakeholders.

Azmina Siddique, policy manager at the Children’s Society, said at the time it was disappointing parents would not be able to benefit from cheaper uniforms this academic year.

However, she told the BBC: ‘We appreciate that these [changes] can take a bit of time and it’s really important to get the guidance right.’

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘School uniform provides a sense of identity and community for children and young people, and should be a real source of pride.

‘But it must never be a burden for parents or a barrier to pupils accessing education.

‘This new binding guidance will help to make uniforms far more affordable for families by driving costs down as we work hard to level up the country.’

Mark Russell, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: ‘For too many years the cost of school uniform has been a heavy financial burden on many families, causing money worries and even debt, so these new guidelines to make sure school uniforms are affordable are extremely welcome.

‘Until now, too many parents have had to fork out for expensive branded items rather than cheaper alternatives, while having to cut back on essentials like food or heating.

‘So, we hope schools are able to start working with the guidance, which should ultimately make it much easier for families to kit out their children for school without breaking the bank.’

Matt Easter, co-chair of the Schoolwear Association, said: ‘We welcome this guidance as it takes a balanced and proportionate approach towards ensuring parents get good value for money from uniforms, without creating unreasonable burdens on schools or uniform suppliers.

The Education (Guidance About Costs of School Uniform) Bill passed in April after being introduced by Labour’s Mike Amesbury and the new guidance was issued by the DfE today

‘Importantly, it reinforces that the majority of schools are already doing the right thing and, in most cases, will already be fully, or almost, compliant.’

James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘It’s important to remember that a large number of schools already work extremely hard to ensure that their uniform is affordable for families.

‘Many schools also run schemes to provide support for families who might be struggling with the cost of uniform.

‘That being said, we fully support the move to ensure that uniform remains as affordable as possible in every school.

‘We know that an increasing number of families have come under financial pressure due to the pandemic, so measures that could reduce the cost of uniform are certainly welcome.’

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