Schools told: cut uniform costs

Lib Dems calls for an end to profit-sharing schemes that exist between schools and some uniform shops

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Schools in England will be told to stop running profit-sharing schemes with school uniform suppliers.

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Education minister, David Laws, announced yesterday that he will issue guidance to stop schools from issuing a preferred uniform supplier, allowing parents to shop around for the best uniform price.

Currently, some schools demand that parents buy uniforms from a particular shop. Often, the uniforms are expensive and the school gets a cut of the profits.

Speaking at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, he said: “Costs at the start of a school term can quickly add up, particularly for families with several school age children.

“School uniforms can be an important sign of identity and pride, but at a time when many family budgets are squeezed parents should not be forced to spend more than they need to.

“We will send a strong signal to schools that it is vital to secure value for money for parents before changing or introducing new school uniforms.

“Parents need to be able to shop around to find the best deal.

“I want to see fewer schools using single suppliers and branded items, which keep costs unnecessarily high.”

He said he felt confident that schools would follow guidance without a law being put in place. The guidance will tell schools not to sign a cash-back arrangement with single suppliers of school uniforms – a deal where schools get a cut of uniform profits.

Schools will also be discouraged from changing the look of the uniform and to keep branding to a minimum, to make it easier for children to pass down their clothes.

This comes after an Office of Fair Trading investigation last year, which suggested that 75% of schools placed restrictions on where parents could buy uniforms. It said this added an average of £5 to the price tag for each item. The Office of Fair Trading then sent a letter to schools discouraging this practice but, says Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, “it was largely ignored”.

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