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Church welcomes affordable-uniform guidance after Children’s Society campaign

26 November 2021


Examples of simple uniforms for primary-school children

Examples of simple uniforms for primary-school children

NEW legally binding guidance requiring schools to ensure that uniforms are affordable was issued last Friday, after a campaign by the Children’s Society.

The statutory guidance states that “parents should not have to think about the cost of a school uniform when choosing which school(s) to apply for. . . Therefore, schools need to ensure that their uniforms are affordable.”

It says that schools should keep the use of branded items to a minimum and ensure that their suppliers “give the highest priority to cost and value for money”. Schools should ensure that secondhand uniforms are available. The entire uniform, including PE kits, is covered by the guidance, and it notes that “generic items which are widely available (including from low-cost outlets) give parents choice and allow them to control the cost of school uniforms.”

Governing boards should be compliant by September 2022, and any necessary changes be made in time for parents to buy new uniforms for the school year.

The guidance follows legislation passed in April (News, 13 March 2020) requiring the Government to introduce such guidance, after a Children’s Society campaign (News, 31 August 2018) and a Private Member’s Bill from Mike Amesbury, the Labour MP for Weaver Vale.

The head of Peterhouse C of E Primary Academy in Great Yarmouth, Ryan Freeman, welcomed the guidance, which the school had used to assess its requirements. “We are determined to diminish the barriers that are faced on a daily basis by our families, and we are acutely aware of the ever-increasing financial demand on them,” he said.

“In light of the suggestions, we have decided to remove the requirement for our children in Key Stage 2 to wear a shirt and tie. Instead, the children can now wear a polo shirt and jumper throughout all year groups. This is on top of the removal of blazers a few years ago. Our parents now only need to buy one branded item — a jumper — with all remaining uniform being generic.

“We hope that these small changes have made our uniform as affordable as possible for all. However, where families are still finding it difficult, we have a number of ways in which we can help them. This includes a secondhand uniform store, and financial support where appropriate.”

Estimates of the average cost of a uniform vary. Earlier this year, a Schoolswear Association survey of retailers supplying 11.9 per cent of all state secondary schools in England reported an average cost per pupil of £101, with its chief executive, Matthew Easter, speaking critically of “much-inflated figures being quoted and bandied around”. But, in 2015, the Department for Education reported an average of £212.88 (between £192 and £201 for primary school, and £231 and £239 for secondary school).

The Children’s Society’s 2018 survey of 1000 parents suggested an average of £340 for each child’s secondary-school uniform, and £255 for primary school. About two million children in England were going to school wearing incorrect, unclean, or ill-fitting uniform, the charity estimated.

The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell, 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.”

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