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New rules to drive down school uniform costs

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Written by: Emma Lunn
19/11/2021
Families will save money on school uniforms from next year, following new legally-binding guidance published by the government today.

The Department for Education (DfE) guidance means schools in England must ensure that school uniform costs are reasonable, and parents get the best value for money.

Research from the DfE in 2015 showed that parents can save almost £50 on average if they can buy all school uniform items from any store, compared to uniform which all needs to be bought from a designated shop or school.

From next autumn, schools will be required to help keep costs down by taking steps to remove unnecessary branded items and allowing more high-street options, like supermarket own-brand uniform.

To support families, schools will have to make sure second-hand uniforms are available, also helping work towards achieving net zero carbon emissions. In the UK, an estimated 350,000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill every year and encouraging families to use second-hand uniform can reduce waste and bring down emissions from manufacturing new garments, while making it cost-effective for families.

Nadhim Zahawi, secretary of state for education, 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.”

Under the new rules, schools should make sure their uniform policy is published on their website and is clear and easy for parents to understand. Schools are also required to use competitive and transparent contracts with suppliers.

Schools are expected to have taken steps to stick to the new guidance before parents buy uniform for the academic year beginning in September 2022.

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. 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.

“As the leading schoolwear industry body, we are committed helping schools understand the implications of the guidance for their uniform policies, and will continue to work with them to ensure the process of choosing a uniform supplier remains as robust, competitive, and easy as possible.”

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