Parents could save hundreds of pounds on the cost of school uniform thanks to a new law – we explain how it will work.
The Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill has finally been given Royal Assent after first being introduced by Labour MP Mike Amesbury in February last year.
The new bill will see schools told that they must keep branded items to a minimum – meaning hard-up families can buy cheaper supermarket kit instead.
Parents currently spend an average of £337 on uniform for each child at secondary school, and £315 for kids at primary school, according to The Children's Society.
These costs are more than three times what families think is a reasonable cost – with families saying they believe the costs should be £105 for secondary school uniform and £85 for primary.
Of course, the amount the new bill could save in reality does depend on how many children you have and exactly how much you currently pay for uniform.
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The Mirror heard from one parent who said they spent £850 on school uniform for her two children last year.
She said: “Whilst I know it’s important for a school uniform to have the logo on it and have some branding, some schools have almost everything branded and so we have no choice but to buy from their supplier.
“Last year my son’s secondary school uniform totalled an eye watering £650.
“My daughters uniform was around £200.”
What does the new school uniform bill mean?
Before the bill was passed, there were no rules in law that dictated how school governing bodies or academy trusts decided what uniform families can buy.
Instead, there was only non-statutory guidance, which Mr Amesbury said was being ignored by some schools.
But the new legislation will mean that educational facilities have to keep uniform affordable by law, with the legislation to be enforced by Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education.
The law will apply to relevant schools such as academies, maintained schools, non-maintained special schools and pupil referral units, and is expected to come into force in two months' time.
It was called into place after charity The Children's Society published a report which claims children are wearing ill-fitting, dirty, or incorrect clothing because of the expensive cost of new uniform.
How will it work?
The law will put into place rules that see families get the best value for school uniform.
This will include making school uniform easily available and consist of items that can be bought cheaply – for example, in a supermarket.
Branded items must be kept to a minimum and schools will also need to avoid specifying expensive items of clothing.
Finally, schools will need to demonstrate that they have obtained the best value for money in their clothing contracts.
They’ll also be asked to avoid single supplier contracts that limit where parents can buy uniform.
What other help is there for parents?
Some families could be entitled to as much as £150 toward the cost of school uniform thanks to a government funded scheme.
The School Uniform Grant is compulsory in Scotland where local authorities pay low income families at least £100 per child each year.
However, in England, it’s not a statutory right, and many councils have been forced to scrap – or reduce – it in recent years due to funding rows.
In Wales, the Government offers a Pupil Development Grant (PDG) instead.
The Gov.uk website has a page where you can enter your postcode to see what help is available near you.
To be eligible, you typically have to be claiming benefits or on a low income.
It’s worth noting that the scheme won’t be applicable if your child is enrolled at an academy as these are independently-run.
If you’re not able to claim the grant, but you’re struggling to make ends meet, you should also speak to your child’s school to see what support they can offer.
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