The DfE has published new statutory guidance, issued under the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Act 2021, on how schools should ensure the cost of school uniforms is reasonable and secures the best value for money. This article breaks down what you need to know and the actions you need to take.
- Maintained schools and academies must follow the guidance
- Schools should review their uniform policies
- Schools should limit branded items
- Cost considerations should also be made for PE kits
- Cost needs to be the most important consideration when determining how uniforms are sourced
- Second-hand uniforms should be made available
- Uniform policies need to be published on school websites
- Schools need to be mostly compliant with the guidance by September 2022 and fully compliant by Summer 2023
Maintained schools and academies must follow the guidance
The guidance is statutory for:
- Academies and academy trusts, including special academies, alternative provision academies, nursery classes within an academy, and sixth forms within an academy.
- Maintained schools, including maintained special schools, nursery classes in a maintained school (but not maintained nursery schools), and sixth forms within a maintained school.
- Non-maintained special schools.
Schools should review their uniform policies
All schools should review their uniform policies to determine if any changes are required in line with the new guidance. When developing or reviewing their uniform policies, schools should:
- Assess the overall cost implications for parents and be aware of how costs could add up where multiple items of the same garment may be needed.
- Assess the impact that variations in their uniform (e.g. house colours) can have on total costs and the ability of parents to pass items down between siblings.
- Avoid frequent changes to uniform specifications.
- Consider how the cost of the uniform might affect different groups of pupils, especially pupils with particular protected characteristics.
- Engage with parents and pupils on cost issues when developing the uniform policy and when making significant changes to the policy.
- Avoid requiring parents to purchase additional uniform for the purpose of extracurricular activities.
- Engage with existing or prospective uniform suppliers on how to ensure the best value for money is achieved.
Some schools, or year groups in a school, may not have a uniform policy or dress code, meaning some aspects of the statutory guidance may not be applicable. In these cases, schools should still consider the cost implications to parents of the decision not to have a uniform.
Schools should limit branded items
Branded items are not just items with a school logo – they are items of clothing with distinctive characteristics which make it unique to the school. As a general rule, if an item cannot be purchased at a range of retailers it is likely to be a branded item.
Schools should keep branded items to a minimum and limit their use to low-cost or long-lasting items. Where a school determines a branded item is needed, it should consider how to maintain the benefits of a branded item while keeping it low cost, e.g. using iron-on logos. Optional branded items should also be kept to a minimum.
Cost considerations should also be made for PE kits
Schools should apply the same consideration to cost as they would for the usual school uniform to their PE kits. Schools should not be overly specific in their PE kit requirements for different sports and keep the number of items, particularly branded items, to a minimum.
Cost needs to be the most important consideration when determining how uniforms are sourced
When determining how school uniforms should be sourced, cost and value for money for parents should be the most important consideration.
Parents should be able to get generic uniform items from a range of retailers. Where a branded item is required, schools should ensure a written contract is in place with the supplier and need to be able to demonstrate that they have obtained the best value for money.
Single supplier contracts should not be used unless regular tendering competitions are run where more than one supplier can compete for the contract. Contracts should be retendered at least every five years.
When tendering for a uniform contract, schools should consider the views of parents and pupils, be mindful of suppliers’ ordering timelines, request visualisations of the uniform, consider which methods of delivery parents would prefer, and consider other issues important to the school community such as sustainability.
Second-hand uniforms should be made available
Schools should ensure that second-hand school uniforms are available to parents – it is up to schools to decide how to do this. Information on second-hand uniforms needs to be made clear to current and prospective parents and schools should publish this information on their websites.
Uniform policies need to be published on school websites
Schools should publish their uniform policies on their websites and make sure they are easily understood and available for all parents, including parents of prospective pupils.
Policies should clearly state whether each item is optional or required and whether the item can be generic or needs to be branded. Schools should also make it clear whether an item can only be purchased from a specific retailer or if it can be purchased more widely.
Schools need to be mostly compliant with the guidance by September 2022 and fully compliant by Summer 2023
Schools should be compliant with the guidance by September 2022; however, there are the following exceptions:
- Where this would breach a pre-existing contract or informal agreement with a uniform supplier, particularly when the supplier may already have stock
- Where a school will need to run a competitive tender to set up a new contract for their uniform
Before parents seek to buy or acquire uniforms items in Summer 2022, schools need to:
- Make changes to their uniform policies that do not fit with the exceptions above, e.g. removing unnecessary branded items.
- Publish their uniform policies on their websites and ensure they are easily understood.
- Ensure second-hand uniforms are available.
Schools that need to run a competitive process to set up a new contract to secure a supplier for elements of their uniform need to have a clear plan to meet this requirement as soon as possible – contracts should be in place no later than December 2022.
All schools should be fully compliant with the guidance by Summer 2023; however, the DfE has recognised that some schools may be tied to existing contracts and not able to comply with some elements of the guidance until their contract is up for renewal.
- Read the statutory guidance in full here.
- Make sure you review your school’s uniform policy. We are currently updating our School Uniform Policy to reflect the new guidance – add the article page to your ‘Watch list’ to be notified as soon as it has been updated.
DfE (2021) ‘Cost of school uniforms’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cost-of-school-uniforms> [Accessed: 19 November 2021]