New law to make school uniform costs more affordable

A new law has been passed which will require schools to follow new statutory guidance on uniform costs, instructing them to keep prices down.

The cross-party support for the Bill recognised the costs parents face for school uniform, particularly for branded items, and the statutory guidance will tell schools to consider high street alternatives. It will also include measures on encouraging second-hand uniform, schools’ arrangements with suppliers, and ensuring parents have access to clear information about uniform policies.

The new law, introduced as a Private Members’ Bill by Mike Amesbury MP and given government backing, enables the government to set statutory guidance for schools to consider about costs for uniforms.

The Department for Education will publish the statutory guidance in the autumn this year, which will focus on ensuring costs are reasonable for families of all backgrounds and giving parents the best value for money. It will also advise schools to make sure that when they take up contracts with uniform suppliers, they are competitive and transparent in order to keep costs down.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: "School uniforms are important in establishing the right ethos in a school. They also help to improve behaviour and a sense of belonging and identity. But we want to be sure they are affordable for parents. This new law will help to save families money and ensure the cost of a blazer or shirt is never a barrier to accessing the best possible education."

Baroness Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “This is important legislation and an area in which we have called for more action. Councils have been concerned about the growing cost of school uniforms, with branded compulsory items of clothing making uniform and PE kits too expensive for many families.

“Research has found that one million children live in families across England who are getting into debt to meet the rising cost of school uniforms. This new law will help parents avoid being pushed into debt in order for their children to look smart by making it more affordable, especially for those with more than one child to kit out.”

Matt Easter, co-chair of the Schoolwear Association, commented: "As the leading schoolwear industry body, we welcome the Bill and the help it will provide for schools looking for further guidance on their uniform policies, to ensure the process of choosing a uniform supplier is as robust, competitive and easy as possible.

"In particular, we welcome the government’s recognition that the quality and longevity of garments should be considered alongside their cost. Whilst the vast majority of schools already work hard to keep their uniforms affordable, this Bill is an important step to help them continue to make the best decisions on their uniform policies and offer the best support to parents."

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