MP’s bill to cut cost of school uniforms becomes law

A new law means schools across England will have to comply with legally-binding guidance aimed at ensuring school uniforms are affordable. The Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill was introduced into the House of Commons by Labour MP Mike Amesbury in February 2020, and - following delays caused by the pandemic – passed into law on 29 April 2021.

The new guidance, which the government aim to issue to schools in the autumn, is expected to insist that the number of branded items is kept to a minimum, with a fair and open tendering process established around uniform suppliers to tackle long-standing monopolies. It is also likely to include measures on encouraging second-hand uniform and ensuring parents have access to clear information about uniform policies. The law was supported by the government as well as MPs and peers from across the political spectrum.

The bill was also supported by The Children’s Society, who have campaigned on the issue of school uniform costs for a number of years. In 2020 they surveyed 1000 parents and found those with children in state-maintained schools told them they spent £337 per year on school uniform costs for each secondary school child. £315 per year was spent for each primary school child. On average, those costs were over three times what parents felt was reasonable for primary (£85) and secondary (£105) uniform. 23 per cent of those surveyed said the cost meant their children were attending school wearing ill-fitting, incorrect or unclean uniform.

Commenting on the bill becoming law Mark Russell, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: ‘It’s been a long journey but we are delighted the bill has finally passed, making affordable school uniforms a reality for struggling families. We’ve heard of children being sent home from school because their parents could not afford the correct uniform and of families facing impossible choices like cutting back on food or heating in order to buy the right kit. It’s completely unacceptable and unfair on children and families. This bill should finally cut the cost of school uniforms, making life easier, not harder, for families and helping children to feel like they fit in at school and are equal to their classmates.’

Also speaking after the bill received royal assent Mike Amesbury said: ‘I’m celebrating on behalf of hard-pressed families up and down the country. People have been going through tough times, particularly with COVID. Of course, the issue of expensive uniforms predates COVID but it’s more pertinent than ever because people have been on furlough or lost jobs as well as losing loved ones. This will make a real difference and bring the cost of school uniforms down, with the need for schools to put affordability front and centre in their uniform policies placed on a legal footing for the first time’.

Matt Easter, co-chair 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.’

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