The new school year has begun with some controversy in the press over school uniform.
Uniform policy is the responsibility of school governing boards. The cost of a uniform, including various sports kits, adds up quickly, so it’s important that steps have been taken by boards to ensure their school’s uniform is affordable and that measures are in place to assist disadvantaged families.
NGA encourages governing boards to keep uniform costs to a minimum and to ensure that it is widely available. Schools should engage with parents when developing a uniform policy, or when making changes to an existing policy, to help them assess the impact on families and address any concerns.
Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors' Association, said: "It is deeply disappointing that there are still reports of school uniform being too expensive. Since we were set up 10 years ago, the National Governors' Association has been reminding governing boards to keep the cost of uniform low and to make sure uniform is easily available - and many do. While governors and trustees should not be involved in the minutiae of setting uniform requirements, they must hold senior leaders to account for its cost to families. Particularly, schools must avoid creating difficulties for the families of children and young people from poorer backgrounds."
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The government has published non-statutory guidance on school uniforms. Although it is not mandatory, schools are expected to take heed of the guidance when developing a school uniform policy or making changes to uniform. In particular, governing bodies should:
Avoid exclusive single supplier contracts
Not insist that pupils wear expensive items of uniform
Avoid frequent changes to uniform
Seek to select items that can be purchased cheaply, for example in a supermarket or other good value shop
Keep compulsory branded items to a minimum.
This week, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Wearing school uniform can help children to feel part of a community and instils a sense of pride in their school. It’s also practical, and avoids children being singled out for what they’re wearing. However, every year we hear of some schools insisting that parents buy a wide range of compulsory items, from branded blazers to specific socks. This can push the overall cost of a uniform and PE kit into hundreds of pounds, and for many families, that is simply too much.
“We would encourage all schools to follow a common sense approach to their uniform, for example choosing uniform items widely available on the high street, making school logos available as sew-on patches, and having a plain sports kit that can be used for different sports. Schools should be using a range of suppliers to avoid single outlets having a monopoly that allows them to raise prices.”