School uniforms are a significant cost that millions of families need to meet every summer. I share parents’ concerns over the rising prices of school uniforms, and I fully support the calls to tackle school uniform costs.
Many families struggle to pay for their children’s uniforms and must balance their cost with other essentials like food and heating. This is exacerbated by the need to buy new sets of school uniforms as children grow and by some schools limiting the number of shops that sell their uniforms.
The Children’s Society published a report in 2018 which found that, overall, parents with children in state-maintained schools spent £340 each year on school uniform costs for each secondary school child and £255 per year for each primary school child.
The report recommended that the Government should make the guidance on school uniforms legally binding, so schools would have to make uniform cost a top priority.
In November 2015, the Government said that it wanted to ensure effective competition is used to drive better value for money and committed to put existing best practice guidance for school uniform supply in England into law. Unfortunately, over four years on, there has been no action on this.
In October 2019, research revealed that the School Uniform Grant, a national benefit created in 1980 to help parents with clothing costs, is now unavailable in over 80% of English local authority areas. I am deeply concerned that vital support to help struggling parents cover the cost of school uniforms has been taken away because of cuts in government funding. It is vital that the cost of uniforms is capped and that cuts which have left disadvantaged families without the support they need, are ended.
The Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill seeks to make provision for statutory guidance to be issued to schools about the cost aspects of school uniform policies.
I am pleased to support this Bill and am glad that it passed its second reading on 13 March without the need for a vote.
The Bill has now reached the Committee stage where it will be scrutinised line by line before being returned to Parliament. I hope that it will be successful in passing into law and tackling the rising cost of school uniforms.
The Government says that it remains committed to developing statutory guidance and has also indicated its support for this Bill. I hope that this support will continue throughout the Bill’s passage through Parliament.
I can assure you that I will continue to support action to tackle the cost of school uniforms and the introduction of the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill.