The Children’s Society is launching new resources today for all state primary and secondary schools to help them navigate the changes set by new school uniform laws. These resources were developed in partnership with the Child Poverty Action Group and Children North East, and based on years of hands-on work with schools and families.
The new law, the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Act 2021 which passed in April 2021, requires schools to follow new statutory guidance on uniform costs, instructing them on how they must keep prices down so their policies are more inclusive for children from low-income families.
Schools are required to implement the guidance in time for parents buying uniform for the new school year in Autumn 2022 – or Summer 2023 if it breaches a pre-existing contract or formal agreement with a supplier. The new resources have been designed to help schools understand the guidance and be able to implement the changes to their policies.
The new cost of school uniform law was a result of seven years of campaigning from The Children’s Society to make school uniform affordable and a Private Members Bill from Mike Amesbury MP. Young people had told The Children’s Society back in 2014 how not being able to afford the correct uniform meant they were given detentions or even being excluded. It also made them feel embarrassed amongst their peers and resulted in being bullied or feeling isolated.
The charity went on to publish three research reports The Wrong Blazer in 2015, 2018 and 2020 revealing that many schools have unnecessarily strict uniform requirements, such as making families buy uniform at specific and often expensive shops or having lots of branded items. This meant that for families living on the breadline, it was the choice between letting their child turn up with incorrect uniform and facing the consequences or going without the basics.
Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “School should be a place where every child feels they belong. A uniform can bring the school community together and develop a sense of school identity but high standards shouldn’t have to mean high costs. Long uniform lists put pressure on family finances and expensive uniforms can even push parents into debt or force them to make hard choices to ensure their children have the right kit.
“Our research in 2020 found that 1 in 8 families were having to cut back on essentials, such as food or heating to cover the cost. The stress of having the wrong uniform, and fear of being singled out, has a real impact on pupils’ confidence and well-being. They may even be taken out of lessons because of incorrect uniform, losing essential learning time.
“We have designed these resources to help schools understand and be able to navigate the new statutory guidance in front of them. We invite all schools to download our resources so they find it easier to update their school uniform policies making them more affordable by the start of the next school year.”
Head of Child Poverty Action Group’s Cost of the School Day programme Kate Anstey said:
“We know that parents struggle with the cost of school uniform and that kids are excluded from activities and even given detentions for not having the right kit. Following the new government guidance, we’ve brought together our insights in this series of resources to support schools to develop affordable approaches to uniform and ensure children are not priced out of school life.”
Luke Bramhall, Head of Youth Services and Poverty Proofing at Children North East, said:
“At Children North East we frequently hear directly from children and their families about the impact uniform costs have on household income through our Poverty Proofing© the School Day work. The recent government guidance is an important step in the right direction, enabling educators to create accessible uniform that will reduce costs and remove stigma associated with not being able to afford expensive uniform costs. We are pleased to have worked with both organisations to produce this series of resources aimed at supporting schools to implement affordable uniform policies.”
The Resources can be downloaded for free from http://childrenssociety.org.uk/school-uniform-resources