How much does a school uniform cost, and how can costs be kept to a minimum?
As a year 6 pupil parent, I am sitting on the other side of the table getting ready for the transition to secondary school.
I hope that I can draw upon my secondary expertise to support my son (and others) have a successful education. I’ve been here before throughout the primary period, and I must be very careful about expressing views that might be detrimental to any school.
That aside, this topic is worth discussing here As it has many benefits for all pupils and families across the country.
Firstly, a few disclaimers…
I have ‘told thousands of pupils off’ for not wearing uniform correctly throughout my career. On some occasions, perhaps working with a vulnerable pupil, I’ve also turned a blind eye! Most teachers do in this scenario …
I know uniform is also an essential safeguarding tool (eg journey to school; vulnerable, bullying etc). Wearing a uniform also helps pupils gain a sense of identity and belonging very early on in their lives.
However, it’s very difficult to find any direct links between uniform and pupils’ outcomes in a research-informed world. There is some research, but it’s not very much. I accept that ‘wearing a uniform’ can support pupil attendance, punctuality, exclusions and pastoral enrichment, but they can also have a detrimental impact on pupils too.
We would be foolish not to acknowledge the latter…
New uniform guidance …
Secondly, there is a new statutory guidance published by the DfE, introduced in November 2021.
This will mean that every school should have considered their uniform policy for the academic year ahead. The purpose of this guidance is to ensure the cost of school uniforms is reasonable and secures the best value for money.
Over the last decade, there has been a huge shift in the marketisation of schools, competing for admissions, good pupil grades and excellent inspection reports. The consequence of not securing any of these places the school in difficult circumstances.
Having compliant pupils ensures good behavior across the board, and good behavior leads to good teaching and learning. However, we know you can have compliant pupils in a uniform-free school. As an addendum, it would be worth exploring if this is a socio-economic factor or a school culture and leadership cause…
The law states…
Schools should consider who supplies the uniform, and (competitive) contracts should be reviewed every 5 years.
- Parents should not have to think about the cost of a school uniform when choosing which school(s) to apply for. Therefore, schools need to ensure that their uniform is affordable.
- In consideration of cost, schools will need to think about the total cost of school uniforms, taking into account all items of uniform or clothing parents will need to provide while their child is at the school.
- Schools should keep the use of branded items to a minimum.
I want to discuss the last item above – branded uniform. Let’s assume we are all ‘for wearing a uniform’. Every child must wear one, and schools must recycle and/or donate items to support vulnerable families. Now, let’s now consider what items must be purchased to attend school:
- School blazer
- Jumper or cardigan
- School tie – with logo or pattern – typically branded regardless
- Plain white shirt
- Trousers or skirt
- black leather shoes
- Plain socks
- Plain black/white or colored shorts for PE (or leggings/skirt)
- PE socks
- New school bag
- Pencil case and calculator
Other optional items that may be needed:
- Winter jacket
- Football boots (or equivalent)
- One or two shirts, socks, trousers/skirts and jumpers
Ignoring all the optional items, let’s assume that a) your child has really grown and needs fitted clothes b) the school branding is an entirely different color and c) items that will need to be purchased (not optional) are essential. No items really need branding, but let’s assume a school wishes to ensure the pupil can be identified to and from school.
Which uniform item would need to be branded?
- School blazer = branded
- Jumper or cardigan = branded
- School tie = branded
- Plain white shirt = no logo
- Trousers or skirt = no logo
- Black leather shoes = no logo
- Plain socks = no logo
- Shorts for PE = no logo
- T-shirt = no logo
- PE socks = no logo
- Trainers = no logo
- New school bag = branded
- Pencil case and calculator = no logo
Now, I cannot factor in all 25,000 school decisions across England, but the above items are typically branded and at least cover a few scenarios. For example, when a child leaves a bag or blazer on a bus or on the playground; in the summer walking to school with no blazer, the logo is clear to see on the school jumper etc.
For me, this would ensure branded items are kept to an absolute minimum, providing a sense of identity, safeguarding and consistency for behaviour.
Hard questions for governors and schools …
- How does your school uniform meet DfE guidance, whilst maintaining high standards and consistency?
- What do your preferred uniform suppliers do to keep the cost of branded items proportionate and economical for parents? For example, what is the difference in cost between a plain jumper and one with a logo?
- How do unbranded items lead to inconsistency and poor behavior across the school? Eg how many pupils are excluded for non-uniform compared to those with uniform?
- What items are optional? For example, jumper and blazer, or just a jumper or blazer?
- When will your school review the new policy guidance and seek parental views?
I guess the real question is, if branded items outweigh non-branded items, are purchases imposed on parents being kept to a ‘minimum’?