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Statutory Guidance Published on the Cost of School Uniforms

on Friday, 10 December 2021.

Many schools will be aware that Parliament passed a new law this year in relation to school uniforms.

The Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Act 2021 has been introduced in recognition of the costs that parents must incur when buying school uniform. 

The new law means that maintained schools and academies must have regard to the statutory guidance (Cost of school uniforms, DfE November 2021) (guidance), published by the Department for Education on 19 November 2021 when formulating their uniform policies. The guidance envisages that schools should now be reviewing their policies to consider whether any changes are needed.

The guidance sets out the key considerations for schools:

  • Cost and value for money considerations should be the highest priority and should consider all uniform required whilst at school (i.e. including any PE kit, etc). This will also include the durability and quality of items.
  • Branded items should be kept to a minimum and be limited to low cost or long lasting items. Flexibility should be considered for a branded item, for example by being able to purchase generic items but adding a sewn on or iron on logo to personalise it to a school.
  • Optional branded items should also be minimised to avoid social inequality in uniform choices.
  • Where traditionally more expensive items such as coats or shoes are specified, schools should avoid being overly specific in their requirements to take into account that these items may have already been purchased for the child to wear outside of school.

Schools are also required to put in place arrangements for the purchase of second hand uniform. This requirement is in place to assist not only with the cost of uniforms, but also as part of the strategy to reduce emissions and the amount of clothes that end up in landfill each year. Parents should be able to easily access information on where to purchase this and details should also be published on the website. The guidance envisages that it will be decided at a local level how these arrangements are made, which may include the school making arrangements itself or joining a scheme organised by a local third party.

Next Steps for Schools

Following the publication of this guidance, schools will now need to consider the timeline for compliance. The guidance expects schools to review their current uniform policy to consider if any changes are necessary and to ensure compliance with the guidance. A list of factors to consider when reviewing the policy are also included to assist schools with this task.

Additionally, the guidance also provides a list of considerations for Trusts when considering the tenders for a new uniform supplier to ensure that new contracts are compliant with the guidance.

It is expected that schools will be complying with "much of this guidance by September 2022". There will be some exceptions, for example where there are existing contracts or informal agreements in place, or where a new tender is required.

Before summer 2022 schools should have actioned:

  • "changes to the uniform policy which do not fit with these exceptions, such as removing an unnecessary branded item
  • publishing the uniform policy on the school’s website and ensuring it is easily understood
  • making sure that second-hand uniforms are available to acquire (either from the school directly or from an established scheme)"

Schools should be fully compliant with the statutory guidance by summer 2023, however it is recognised that where existing contracts are in place, it may not be possible to comply with all elements of the statutory guidance until the contract with a supplier is renewed. Schools should also ensure that when reviewing their uniform policy, the policy is easily accessible to all readers and is published on each school's website.

If you have any questions on this new legislation or need further information, please contact Rosie Browne in our Academies and Schools team on 07384 817 992, or alternatively please complete the form below.

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