Labour MP, Andrew Gwynne, has called on local schools in Denton and Reddish to allow parents to shop around for school uniforms ahead of the new term after research showed that restrictive rules are costing families across the country an estimated £52m a year.
The Office of Fair Trading’s report on school uniforms found that almost three quarters of state schools still place restrictions on where uniforms can be bought, meaning parents aren’t able to take advantage of cheap offers in supermarkets and high street stores. As a result, families are paying between £5 and £10 extra on items such as pullovers and skirts – adding up to an extra £52m a year cost for families across the country.
These findings come in spite of guidance introduced by the Labour government in 2007 to encourage schools to give parents a better deal.
Andrew Gwynne MP said:
“I know from speaking to parents across Stockport and Tameside that the cost of equipping children for a new school year can be a huge burden, especially during the summer when many parents are struggling with the cost of extra childcare, holidays and activities.
“I am therefore calling on all local schools to do what they can to ensure that that burden is as low as possible; for example, by ensuring that they don’t require items of clothing which can only be bought at a single shop, and by helping parents re-sell uniforms their children have grown out of to other parents.”
“School governors should also consult parents when reviewing their uniform policies. I would encourage parents to contact me to tell me about schools who refuse to do so, so that I can take it up with them directly.”
Sharon Hodgson MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Families, said:
“Hard working families are really struggling at the moment, with household budgets being hit by hundreds of pounds a year by rising prices and cuts to support from government.
“Schools should be free to decide on their uniform requirements in consultation with parents, but they should at all times make sure they’re not compounding that struggle by requiring parents to buy over-priced kit – especially when parents have to bin old uniform because the school has converted to an academy or free school.
“Labour published new guidance for schools when this issue was last highlighted, but in far too many cases schools seem to be carrying on with costly policies for parents. If schools aren’t doing this by themselves, then the government needs to press them to do so.”
Labour’s calls echo those made by the Conservative-led Local Government Association, who recently expressed concerns at the number of schools converting to academies which were requiring pupils to have brand new uniforms.
Labour is calling on schools to:
- Adopt generic items of clothing which are available from supermarkets and high street stores as part of their uniform and sports kit (e.g. plain trousers/skirts and shirts);
- Supply sew-on branding (e.g. generic blazers, jumpers or polo shirts with sew-on badge etc);
- Source any branded garments and required equipment (such as jumpers or scientific calculators/textbooks) directly, negotiating collective discounts from suppliers, and selling to parents at cost price at most;
- Facilitate the resale of uniforms and equipment between parents.
- The research conducted by the Office of Fair Trading was published on 15 August 2012, and can be found here: http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/markets-work/othermarketswork/school-uniforms
- Following a similar report in 2006, the Labour government issued new guidance to schools to tell them not to restrict uniforms to single retailers, and the Schools Admissions Code states that schools must ensure their uniforms are affordable for all parents. As a result, the proportion of schools found to be operating restrictive uniform policies has fallen from 84% to 74% between the two reports.
- The Local Government Association’s media release of 30 August can be found here: http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/media-releases/-/journal_content/56/10171/3695294/NEWS-TEMPLATE