New school uniform law will keep costs down for families with government guidance to be issued this autumn
Schools will be asked to keep branded items to a minimum when a new school uniform law comes into force later this year.
The new rules are being designed to keep the costs of school clothes down to make them more affordable for all families.
The Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Act 2021 has been passed by Parliament and now enables the government to set-out strict guidance, which schools will be obliged to consider when it comes to the cost of their uniform or setting a uniform policy.
The Bill, given Royal Assent on April 29, recognises the huge costs many parents face when buying uniforms and in particular branded or badged items that can often only be bought from a single local supplier.
The statutory guidance, to be issued this autumn, is expected to ask schools, amongst other things, to consider high street alternatives - a move welcomed by The Children's Society.
Chief executive Mark Russell said: "This legislation will be vital in ensuring that school uniforms become more affordable for families across the country.
"Young people told us back in 2014 that high-priced school uniforms had a huge impact on their ability to make the most of their education. We hope this new law will make children feel more equal to their classmates and make life easier for struggling families."
A survey conducted by The Children's Society's last year, of around 1,000 parents in the UK, found that those with children in state maintained schools spent on average £337 per year on school uniform for each secondary school child and £315 per year for each primary school child.
The new rules coming into force are also expected to cover second-hand uniform, schools’ arrangements with suppliers, and ensuring parents have clear and detailed information about uniform policies.
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."
The new law was first introduced as a Private Members’ Bill by Labour MP Mike Amesbury and, despite delays to its passage through Parliament because of the pandemic, he received strong cross-party support.
Now with government backing it enables firm detailed guidance to be issued to schools later this year, which they will be required by law to consider.
The guidance 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 further keep costs down.
Matt Easter, co-chairman of the Schoolwear Association said: "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."