The Department for Education (DfE) is instructing schools to follow the new guidance and ease pressure on cash-strapped families ahead of buying uniform next autumn 2022.
The Education (Guidance About Costs of School Uniform) Bill makes the guidance legally binding and expects schools to review their uniform needs and keep branded items to a minimum while allowing more high-street options rather than single, bespoke suppliers. Supplier contracts must be more transparent and families should have access to second-hand uniforms.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said school uniform must never be a burden or a barrier to education.
Simon Biggin of SJB Uniforms and Workwear in Market Street, Sleaford, stocks specific uniform for all Sleaford area secondary schools plus local primary schools.
He welcomed the new Bill adding: “I do think the Bill needs to strike a balanced approach regarding costs, the ultimate goal must be to achieve the best value across a school uniform purchase.
“School uniforms need to be good enough to stand up to the daily washing and wearing demands, and furthermore once grown out of, it has a second life of clothing for another child rather than hitting landfill.”
He is launching ‘nu2u school uniforms’ to offer a secondhand but wearable option for local schools. Mr Biggin said: “This will not only make it more affordable for those that need it most but perhaps just as important, it will aid sustainability to our corner of the clothing industry.”
Some Sleaford area parents welcomed the news. Rachel Armitage of Caythorpe commented: “I absolutely agree that uniforms should be less expensive, we’re quite lucky that my daughter’s school only insist on branded jumpers and cardigans, and we get her polo shirts, skirts and dresses from a supermarket. “But the cardigans and jumpers are still quite pricy and I can imagine that struggling families may not afford them. Secondary schools where everything is branded and there’s no flexibility on wearing, for example, a polo shirt from a supermarket is absolutely ridiculous and I know of parents who have spent more than £300 on kitting their children out in their first year of secondary school. It’s ludicrously expensive.” Gareth Hollis added: “I was shocked when my daughter was accepted to St George’s in Ruskington at how expensive it all was. Managed to get it all second-hand only for them to then change the uniform so had no choice but to buy it all again new since second-hand was not an option.
“Why it all has to be special rather than just a smart blouse and skirt, simple blazer and then just buy a school logo to sew on, I don’t know. And then it was special PE kit too. Cost us over £100.”
Laranya Caslin, principal at St George’s Academy, said they will formalise their actions ready for September 2022.
“I am very keen to support with access to good quality second-hand uniform from an environmental as well as an economical perspective,” she said. “We only have two branded items, plus one optional PE item.”
Jo Smith, head of Kesteven and Sleaford High School, said they review uniform each year and always work with several suppliers to keep costs down., saying: “Parents can already buy many items of the main uniform and PE kit from other vendors than school suppliers.”
She said many parents appreciate the quality and longevity of items provided, while the PTA runs a popular second hand uniform shop.