CMA advises schools and suppliers over uniform prices

The CMA has written to head teachers, governing boards and suppliers urging them to make school uniforms available at the best prices possible.

The open letter explains that some parents in England have been forced to pay up to £10 extra per item where schools appoint exclusive uniform suppliers and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is pointing out that these arrangements may not be offering parents value for money.

The CMA has received complaints from parents concerned about prices and quality as they bought new uniforms for the new school term in September. The open letter arrives just before the half-term break, when many parents may have to buy additional items for their children.

School governing boards are advised to call for a review of uniform arrangements to ensure there is competition between suppliers and retailers, and head teachers are urged to listen to parents and Department for Education guidance and prioritise value for money when choosing uniform policy.

Suppliers and retailers which have arrangements in place with schools are urged to check they are not in breach of competition law which could risk enforcement action, and potential suppliers and retailers finding it difficult to sell school uniforms because of exclusive supply arrangements already in place are encouraged to complain to the CMA.

Ann Pope, CMA Senior Director, said:

Buying school uniforms can be very expensive and particularly hits low income families and those with a number of children, so it is important parents and carers are able to shop around.

We urge everyone involved to ensure that they are providing a good service to parents and carers and complying with Department for Education guidance. We will continue monitoring the sector and will consider taking enforcement action, if it is necessary.

A National Governors’ Association (NGA) spokeswoman said:

NGA recognises that school uniform can form a key part of the identity of a school, but governing boards should make every effort to keep uniform costs to a minimum and make sure it is as widely available to purchase as possible.

Emma Williams, PTA UK Executive Director said:

PTA UK supports the CMA in calling for governing boards and head teachers to listen to parents and carers on school uniform and recommends schools consult with their parent body over the development of policies. The school uniform is a good example of how schools and parents can work together to develop a policy which supports both the needs of the school and the parents. PTA UK supports the CMA campaign and welcomes its focus on the cost of school uniform to help ensure parents get the best value for money possible.

Sam Royston, Director of Policy at The Children’s Society, said:

School uniform costs can be a millstone around the necks of poorer parents, contributing to a cycle of debt and damaging the opportunities and well-being of lower income pupils. One reason for the high costs are policies that force parents to buy clothing from specialist shops, and prevent them from buying cheaper items from supermarkets. We hope the CMA’s letter will prompt all schools to take a fresh look at their policies and make sure every parent is given the chance to shop around for the best deal.

This campaign by the CMA builds on previous work by the Office of Fair Trading, which conducted a school uniform survey in 2012 and a fact-finding review in 2006.

The main findings of the 2012 survey included:

  • 74% of state schools place restrictions on where uniforms can be bought
  • These restrictions lead to parents paying £5 to 10 more for individual items and the estimate for the total detriment to parents of school age children is £4.9 million each year for primary school children and £5.5 million for secondary school children
  • The most common reasons given for imposing restrictions were the desire to maintain quality and consistency

However, a number of schools reported that they were planning to review their arrangements and the open letter and accompanying guidance is intended to help that process.

The Department for Education published school uniform guidance for schools in England in 2013. The guidance recommends that in setting its school uniform policy, the school and governing body should ensure that parents are getting good value for money.

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law.
  2. Suppliers who are unable to sell their products because of exclusive supply arrangements, should consider raising the issue with the CMA.
  3. The principles of the CMA’s letter apply to any exclusive supply arrangements relating to schools across the UK.
  4. Enquiries should be directed to Simon Belgard (, 020 3738 6472).
  5. For more information on the CMA see our homepage or follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn. Sign up to our email alerts to receive updates on Competition Act 1998 and cartels cases.

Local school wins national Good Schools Guide Award

Canterbury Steiner  School recognised for excellence in annual awards


12th October 2015: Canterbury Steiner School, Garlinge Green, Chartham has won a 2015 Good Schools Guide Award for Boys taking Art & Design (3D Studies) at GCSE.


Canterbury Steiner School has been presented with this award by The Good Schools Guide for out-performing all other English schools in its category. The prestigious annual awards, which are in their 9th year, are based on a detailed analysis of the most recent examination results, and are designed to highlight consistently good teaching.


Mr Ewout Van-Manen, School Leader said, ‘We are absolutely delighted to be acknowledged in this way for our excellence in Art & Design. This is a very proud moment for Canterbury Steiner School and the hard working teaching staff. We are sure it will inspire and encourage our pupils who are working towards their GCSEs.’


Ralph Lucas, Editor of The Good Schools Guide, comments, ‘Our annual awards scheme is designed to recognise and reward excellence in teaching in every subject area at both GCSE and A Level or equivalent. Our awards give individual teachers and departments where teaching is at its very best the recognition they deserve.’


The Good Schools Guide Awards are based on a series of calculations which take into account relative popularity and performance of the subject, absolute performance, and percentage of pupils taking the subject.


The Good Schools Guide is the largest independent guide to UK schools. The celebratory hard-back 20th Edition is available now and contains 1300 good schools across both the independent and state sectors. It is available from good book shops or on-line at

“E.den launch new “MyPod Mini” – a treasure trove of learning and play under one roof”

MyPod Mini 1 MyPod Mini 2 MyPod Mini 3 MyPod Mini 4


“E.den launch new “MyPod Mini” – a treasure trove of learning and play under one roof”
Outdoor play specialists E.den have launched the MyPod Mini – a revolutionary new learning space, combining multiple outdoor play opportunities into a very compact footprint.
MyPod Mini was launched at the Childcare Expo Midlands event at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry at the end of last month, and since then has been selling like hot cakes!
Dave Colville, owner of E.den, explained the product concept: “We wanted to create a play space that would enhance any outdoor play area or garden, with a broad range of learning opportunities included as standard, but taking up a minimal amount of floor space, as we appreciate that it’s often at a premium for many establishments.”
MyPod Mini sits at the entry point to the MyPod range, with two larger versions available – the Midi and the Maxi. All MyPod variants are dual height to give children different perspectives on their surroundings, and come as standard with a large upstairs communication space, sand play and role play areas downstairs, Perspex vision panels, mark making boards and a Bluetooth speaker. They can be further enhanced with a wide range of optional extras including various swings, a slide, climbing wall, tunnel, fireman’s pole, sensory garden, lighting and for those with more space even a bridge or a zip wire!
As with everything that E.den create, the focus is on learning through play. “MyPod is designed to be a fully transitional learning space. The flexibility of the different areas means that the space can be constantly redefined to fit in with curriculum themes or just the changing seasons – ensuring that the children remain interested and are continually learning about different ideas” explained Dave.

The design of MyPod is fully flexible, making it ideal not just for the education sector, but also for the leisure industry and private individuals. Dave added “Although we initially aimed the MyPod primarily at Day Nurseries and Primary Schools, we’re finding that a lot of interest is now coming from the leisure industry – country pubs, garden centres and the like. As the leisure industry becomes ever more competitive, these establishments are recognising the importance of having an outdoor play area that clearly demonstrates their commitment to being a quality, family-friendly establishment – and the MyPod provides them with the perfect tool to do just that.”
MyPod Mini is constructed using high-quality, tanalised slow grown redwood pine timber sections, and the roof is clad with cedar shingles. MyPod Mini measures 1800mm x 2600mm (3000mm high) and starts from £4,800+VAT.

Regulated food safety qualifications for catering businesses, food retailers and food manufacturers launched by the British Safety Council

13 October 2015

Regulated food safety qualifications for catering businesses, food retailers and food manufacturers launched by the British Safety Council 

New regulated food safety qualifications that enable workers, supervisors and managers in the catering, food retail and food manufacturing sectors to learn how they can ensure excellent food safety standards have been launched by the British Safety Council.

The Level 2 Awards in Food Safety in Catering, Retail and Manufacturing enable staff in workplaces such as restaurants, bars, takeaways, shops and food preparation and manufacturing sites to learn how to take responsibility for food safety and keep the workplace clean and hygienic, in order that customers do not become ill from the food they purchase and consume.

The Level 3 Awards in Supervising Food Safety in Catering, Retail and Manufacturing provide supervisors and managers in the same types of premises with an essential understanding of how to implement and monitor good food safety and hygiene practices and ensure the business complies with food safety law.

The six qualifications are designed to be delivered by both large and small employers in the catering, retail and manufacturing sectors, independent training providers, schools, colleges and prisons, using learning materials provided by the British Safety Council. The Level 2 qualifications are designed to be delivered in one day and the Level 3 qualifications in three days. The learners’ knowledge and understanding is then assessed by multiple choice examination.

Marianne Phillips, the British Safety Council’s Products and Services Director, said: “With an estimated one million cases of food poisoning in the UK annually*, it is crucial that anyone producing, handling or selling food for consumption by the public understands how to maintain excellent hygiene standards to protect consumers’ health and ensure their business complies with food safety law.

“Delivering our qualifications is very straightforward. Our online qualifications system allows users to purchase examinations and register and manage their candidates online. The results of online examinations are available immediately and paper-based examination results are typically available online within two working days following the return of the completed papers. Certificates are typically issued by post within only two to five days – faster than many other awarding organisations offering these same qualifications.

“Examination fees for the Food Safety qualifications start at just £5.50 + VAT per candidate, depending on the number of examinations purchased and the method of examination.”

For further information on the British Safety Council’s food safety qualifications, go to: or contact the British Safety Council on +44 (0)20 8741 1231 or email


– The majority are not motivated to work harder by a bonus worth 10% of annual salary


BONUSES often involve sizeable investment by UK employers, but new research has found that the majority of workers in the education profession are not motivated by lump sums.


One4all Rewards’ Push the Button Report questioned 1,000 UK workers about what motivates them in the workplace.


The study found that, while rewards and incentives are often effective for maintaining morale and attracting staff, simply handing out lumps of cash is not an effective way of increasing staff efforts – indeed, 73% of education professionals would not work significantly harder in exchange for a bonus equivalent to 10% of their annual salary.

And even incentives equivalent to 25% of annual salaries would not motivate over half (56%) of educators.


Similarly, a 10% pay rise would only result in 27% of employees in this sector, working harder.


These findings suggest that incentivising staff to work harder is about much more than bumping up their bank balances – and suggests that those UK education employers who are currently awarding incentives and bonuses need to design and distribute them carefully, in order to achieve tangible increases in staff output and motivation across the entire workforce.


For those academic businesses and institutions looking at alternatives to financial incentives, the report findings identified several effective options.


19% of education professionals are motivated to work harder by regular rewards – such as weekly or monthly treats. In addition, benefits that make salaries go further by covering employees’ monthly costs – such as pension contributions, health insurance, savings on travel or food – would result in an increase in output for 19% of employees.


Declan Byrne, UK managing director at One4all Rewards, comments: “From this research, it’s clear to see that while bonus culture is impactful, it isn’t always an effective driver of increased output or motivation for many employees – and it seems this is especially true in the education sector. As it can be very expensive for businesses, this is an important learning for many UK employers to acknowledge.


“As one of the leading providers of reward schemes for UK small to medium-sized businesses, we would recommend employers clearly define their objectives for an incentive and benefit scheme, and find out which types of reward does and does not switch on the desired results in their employees, at the very initial stage. It is important to define the goals and the likely results from the outset.


“When used in this way, financial incentives can be really effectively utilised to ‘switch on’ employees to work harder – often with great results for the bottom line.”


John Byrne, performance coach at Mindcoach, said: “We know from research in this area that direct monetary incentives work more effectively with some people and some roles more than others. So I’m not surprised that money isn’t an equal motivator for all employees, because we’re human and it’s natural to want different things and value things differently.

“If you want to get the best return on your investment in rewards and incentives geared towards engaging and motivating employees, you are better to tailor your approaches. After all, no one wants to be just another employee.

“It’s very often quoted that businesses lose customers because their clients don’t feel valued, or they feel a perceived attitude of indifference to them. A singular approach to employee motivation has the same effect. Employees leave high paying jobs because their other human needs aren’t being met. It’s human to want to feel understood, valued, cared for, connected and relevant.”


To read the full Push the Button report and to find out more about One4all Rewards visit the website:

Little steps to making a big difference: the Big Bett Walk

The team behind Bett 2016 is inviting every school in the UK to take part in the ‘Big Bett Walk’, a challenge that encourages children to get active whilst raising funds for one of the UK’s leading children’s charities, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.


Why’s it happening? The Bett team is taking on the Great Wall of China, and they want schools to be involved (without taking them all to China, which just isn’t possible, unfortunately!) All you need to do is pick a day and time between 18 and 22 October, which is when the trek takes place. Your school’s Big Bett Walk can be any distance, however far you think would make it a fun challenge for your pupils. Be as creative and inventive as you like – whether you use your school grounds or venture out to a local park, it’s completely up to you!


The money raised by the Bett team and the schools involved in the Big Bett Walk will go directly to help Great Ormond Street Hospital. Funds raised will go towards funding an isolation bedroom at the hospital within the Premier Inn Clinical Building, due to be finished in 2017. This specially designed room will mean that parents can be there 24/7 to support their child when it matters most.


Mark Shashoua, CEO of i2i Events Group comments, “We have admired the hard work and dedication of staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and with our collective efforts, we look forward to raising money to help the hospital transform the lives of sick children from all over the UK, with improved facilities. Each year Bett provides pupils with the knowledge and resources that their teachers bring back from the show. This year we want to help those children may not be well enough to go to school too, and that’s why we’ve chosen to support Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.”


Rachael Willis Fleming, head of account management at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity adds ‘We are delighted to have been chosen as the charity partner of Bett 2016 and it’s great that the Bett team is encouraging schools to join them in their fundraising efforts. The money raised through this initiative will make a big difference to the lives of our young patients and their families – so a big thank you!’




To get involved, just visit and complete the short form. You can also share details of your efforts on social media by using #BigBettWalk.


Bett 2016 is free to attend and will take place from Wednesday 20 to Saturday 23 January 2016 at ExCeL London. For more information or to register, please visit You can also follow the conversation on Twitter @Bett_Show.  

New leadership team at NCT

Helen        Seana


NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, has selected a new Chair and President to create a new leadership team with its recently appointed Chief Executive.


Helen Stephenson CBE has been appointed Chair and Seána Talbot has been elected President. They will work closely with NCT’s new Chief Executive, Nick Wilkie, who joined in July, to drive the charity forward.


Helen’s strong background in early years education and Seána’s achievements in voluntary work, complement Nick’s 17 years’ experience developing pioneering strategies across the charity sector, including his recent role at Save the Children. The trio form a robust team and the appointments reinforce NCT’s commitment to supporting mothers and fathers through the First 1000 Days of life as a new parent.


Helen has held high-profile positions in Government, including the Cabinet Office and has been responsible for policy and strategy in a number of Government departments. She is currently the Director of Early Years, Child Poverty and Strategy – responsible for the Government’s early years education and childcare policy and leading the delivery of the programme to provide 30 hours of free childcare in the UK. She also heads up the cross-department Child Poverty Unit.


Helen Stephenson said: “I’m thrilled to join NCT. I feel very strongly the First 1000 Days are so important in a child’s life and it’s crucial that all parents should get all the help and support they need in the early stages. NCT is a wonderful source of information and support for parents and I’m looking forward to working with Nick and the Board on the strategic direction of the charity.”


Seána has a long history of volunteering with NCT and has been an NCT Board member, Trustee and non-executive Director since 2009. She has served as NCT Chair and Vice-Chair and has also represented NCT on Maternity Services Liaison Committees for 15 years. She has worked as an NHS manager and commissioner and for the Northern Ireland Department of Health rolling out the Sure Start programme across Northern Ireland. She currently manages a Sure Start project in Belfast.


Seána Talbot said: “I’m excited and delighted to take on the role of President. NCT supports millions of parents and I am passionate about our mission and about finding new ways to reach and support even more parents.”


Nick Wilkie said: “I am delighted to welcome Helen as Chair and Seána as President. They both bring with them a wealth of experience, skills and knowledge and I am really

looking forward to working closely with them to build upon the fantastic work that NCT does and to continue to move the organisation forward.”

British Teens Confidence Crisis is Headed Off by Confidence Expert

A new study carried out in collaboration with YouGov for Sky Academy, warns of confidence crisis amongst British teenagers.

Sky Academy launched nationwide ‘Confidence Month’ on September 23rd with the support of ambassadors Jessica Ennis-Hill, Davina McCall, Alfie Deyes, Sir Chris Hoy, Ella Eyre, Justine Roberts, Melvyn Bragg and Children’s confidence expert Annette Du Bois, who lives nr Chichester.


Sky Academy has published extensive new research examining the confidence issues faced by young people in the UK aged 11-24. The findings paint a stark picture of British adolescence as one in three young people surveyed (33%) claim they are not confident.

One in three (33%) young people surveyed are ‘not confident’

Confidence is lowest amongst 17 year olds – 45% say they are ‘not confident’

Nearly 2 in 5 (37%) social media users aged 14-17 surveyed online feel they can be more confident on social media than in person

66% of girls say their confidence is influenced by how attractive they feel compared to only 46% of boys

97% of parents and 90% of young people consider confidence as an important factor for achieving success opposed to being naturally clever (72% parents, 67% kids)

Child confidence expert Annette Du Bois has been brought in by Sky Academy to provide valuable input and confidence building tools and methods based on her CHAMPS Academy, which coaches kids and teens across the UK.


Annette comments: “Today more than ever before, young people across the UK are feeling emotional imbalance, general insecurity, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence, creating anxiety and mild to excessive unhappiness. The modern and complex world has created the fertile ground upon which emotional and –psychological pressures are felt much earlier on. Trying to keep up, gain acceptance or fit in, both online and offline can lead to a decline in wellbeing, life-skills, and social interaction. By learning effective, easy to apply, purpose-designed tools and techniques to build confidence, young people develop lasting self-belief to reach their full potential in life.”

Annette is determined to give as many children and teens as possible the benefit of her confidence expertise with the CHAMPS applied confidence method by rolling out initiatives with Sky Academy, purpose created confidence Apps and personal coaching to help them gain more practical life-skills and tools to be confident in all areas of life.


New rooftop science research lab inspires female scientists to aim higher

A-Level students at a Hertfordshire girls’ school will soon have the opportunity to study and conduct research in one of the most unusual science classrooms in the UK.


Watford Grammar School has installed a large SOLARDOME® PRO geodesic dome on the school roof as its new, fully equipped science laboratory. Science writer and TV personality Professor Robert Winston will officially open the dome at a special celebration event on 1st October.


The school had wanted to create an extension to its existing facilities; after exploring the options, they decided a geodesic dome would “bring science alive” and provide an inspirational space to nurture a new generation of female scientists. Funded by The Wolfson Foundation, The Lawton Trust, The Women of Vision Trust and The Watford Grammar Schools Foundation, the dome will be a multi-research facility, used primarily to extend the learning of A-Level Science students.


The school chose UK company Solardome Industries to supply the dome as it was the only dome manufacturer that could design a habitable, temperature-controlled space with added ‘wow’ factor. Fitted with two doorways and an electric source air pump, the dome can be heated and cooled, making it usable all year round.


Mark Gregory, Director and Chartered Surveyor for the school, oversaw the design and build, and complimented the Solardome team for their flexibility through a project that changed specification several times before the project began. He described the school’s dome as “bespoke, and nobody else in the UK provides anything quite like it.”


Its innovative design is set to benefit all of the students at the school – whether they study science or not. As Headmistress Dame Helen Hyde DBE explains:


“Within the science department at Watford Girls we have a wealth of expertise in carrying out and publishing scientific research. This science dome will allow our best science students to apply for a chance to investigate their own ideas, to develop and test hypotheses and to improve their knowledge and experience.


“Although the research carried out inside the science dome will of course have a science focus, we see the existence of the dome as an addition to enrich the whole curriculum. It opens access to the higher levels of academic study and will motivate all our students to think beyond the stipulations of an advanced level syllabus” she added.


1 in 3 UK primary teachers still lack the confidence to effectively teach the new computing curriculum

Farnell element14 survey reveals that despite these worries from teachers, pupils are reacting positively to the new curriculum

September 2015, London, UK:  One year after the implementation of much needed updates to the UK’s computing curriculum, many teachers are still struggling, according to a survey by global electronics distributor Farnell element14. In a poll of more than 400 UK educators and course leaders, almost a third (31%) admitted that they did not feel confident in their ability to teach coding effectively, while nearly half (42%) did not believe that they had received adequate training and support, and 30% did not have access to the right equipment.

Despite these concerns, more than 85% of respondents claimed that their pupils had reacted positively to the new curriculum, although a mere 20% had utilised coding in the teaching of other subjects.

Shane Loynds, Computing Subject Leader at Trawden Forest Primary School in Lancashire commented: “The change of the computing curriculum is a big step forward and will help many children discover their talent in coding early on. However, many teachers feel that they have not received much support in teaching coding.”

Chris Haworth, European Business President of Farnell element14, said that the results reflect a need for further investment in programming skills in schools: “The curriculum changes implemented in 2014 were a huge step in the right direction towards helping young people to develop the real-world programming and computer literacy skills they’ll need to thrive in an increasingly technology-driven job market.

“The overwhelmingly positive feedback from pupils is testament to the fact that the new curriculum is on the right track. Now the key challenge is to ensure that all teachers receive full training and support, empowering them to pass on the highest quality learning experience to their pupils and to foster the next generation of innovators in computing and electronics.

“At Farnell element14 we’re dedicated to supporting engineering in education, working closely with partner organisations such as Leeds Beckett University to provide access to equipment, facilities and learning resources. With demand for talented, experienced programmers far exceeding the current supply, we see championing young engineers and technicians as a responsibility, if the UK is to overcome its critical skills shortage in the technology sector.”

Farnell element14 has a strong pedigree in the education sector having been involved with Raspberry Pi since its launch in 2012. The company is also manufacturing the BBC’s recently unveiled micro:bit computer which is to be given free to every child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK as part of a major initiative to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology. Launched today, Farnell element14 is also the exclusive distributor of CodeBug, a new £12 crowdfunded nano-board designed to teach children the fundamentals of programming and electronics in a friendly non-intimidating way. Designed to resemble an insect with six touch sensitive legs and interactive switches as ears, the CodeBug distinguishes itself from other pocket-sized computers through its playful user-interface, developed specifically with younger audiences in mind.

In September 2014, the UK government updated the National Curriculum to replace Information Communication Technology (ICT) with a more up-to-date Computing curriculum. The intention was to help pupils across the educational spectrum to develop fundamental skills in computer literacy, coding and creating their own programs.

The complete results of the Farnell element14 engineering in education survey can be found in this infographic.