Cost of School Uniform Act - one year on

School uniforms can bring a school community together and help children to feel they belong, but they can also put financial pressure on families. 

In April last year, the government passed The Cost of School Uniform Act requiring schools to make their uniforms affordable for everyone. At a time when living costs are spiralling, cutting the cost of school uniforms is a welcome opportunity to help struggling families.

According to The Children’s Society Wrong Blazer Report, parents with children in state maintained schools spent on average £337 a year on school uniform for secondary school pupils, and £315 a year for primary school children.

Through our partnerships with local schools, Walton Charity is supporting children from low-income families with equipment, uniform and shoes for school. We are also funding learning programmes, IT equipment and mental health support in schools across Elmbridge as part of our community grants programme. In the last year alone, we gave out more than £20,000 in grants to help local families with the cost of school uniforms.

Covid-19 has presented huge challenges for schools, from adapting to remote learning to recovering lost teaching time, but as we emerge from the pandemic many schools are starting to review their uniform policy in line with the new government guidance.

For Lynn Williams, Headteacher at Chandlers Field School, it is small changes that can make a big difference to the cost of uniforms. Selling iron-on badges rather than branded items brings down the cost of school jumpers and cardigans, and offering a free uniform exchange helps to reduce cost and waste.

“Many of the ideas for initiatives at the school come from the children themselves. Our Uniform Exchange not only helps families to access free uniform it also encourages recycling and cuts down on waste which is important to our school.”

Offering iron-on badges for blazers also helps to keep costs down for pupils at Three Rivers Academy. Making jumpers optional (if blazers are worn) gives families more choice and is one less compulsory item to buy.

As part of the guidance from the Department for Education, schools are encouraged to keep branded items to a minimum and give parents a choice about where they buy clothing. Schools are also encouraged to make second-hand uniform available and ensure parents know how to donate and buy pre-loved uniform.

Research by MyNametages, shows that 1.4 million wearable school uniforms are thrown away each year in the UK. At Hurst Park Primary School, a dedicated Uniform Coordinator role on the school’s PTA ensures that pre-loved uniform is readily available for families. The volunteer coordinator is responsible for organising termly uniform sales and taking online orders throughout the year.

Jon James, Headteacher at Hurst Park, said:

“Although we believe uniform is important for our school identity we want to do what we can to make our policy inclusive. As well as having a thriving second-hand uniform offering, we have recently changed our PE kit in response to the new guidelines and feedback from parents. Changing to plain black joggers and plain t-shirts will make it easier for parents to buy items at a more reasonable price. We are also phasing in the changes so there is no pressure for families to go out and buy new items straight away.”

Putting affordability and best value at the core of a school uniform policy has the potential to make life easier for both children and parents or carers.

Find out more about the new school uniform guidance and how you can help your school to make positive changes to its uniform policy here

If you live in Elmbridge and need help covering the cost of school uniforms, find out more about Walton Charity funding.

Cost of School Uniform guidance

The new Government guidance says schools should:

  • Prioritise cost and value for money when setting uniform policy.

  • Engage with parents and pupils when developing their uniform policy.

  • Keep the number of branded items to a minimum.

  • Ensure second-hand uniform is easily available.

  • Make the uniform policy clear and easy to access for parents.

  • Ensure uniform suppliers are good value for money and avoid relying on single-suppliers where possible.

Janette ButlerComment