A new report by the Schoolwear Association (SA) is calling for the quality and sustainability of garments to be key considerations in any changes to school uniform policy.
The ‘Schoolwear Association: Shining a spotlight on school uniform’ report provides a series of policy recommendations to the UK government, which will help avoid a series of unintended consequences that drastic changes to existing policy could bring about – such as increasing costs, impacting on cohesion in schools and having a detrimental impact on the environment.
The SA details a number of recommendations including that, alongside cost, the quality and sustainability of school uniform should be key considerations. The report argues that policy must ensure there is year-round availability of uniform in the wide range of sizes required, in order to ensure that all pupils have access to items when required.
It goes on to recognise the fact that head teachers are best placed to understand the specific uniform requirements of their school, and any updated guidance should maintain their ability to have the freedom and autonomy required to implement appropriate uniform policies for their local community.
Included within the report are the findings of the “largest ever analysis of uniform costs”, accounting for around 12% of state secondary schools in England – representing 409 schools and approximately 395,000 pupils.
The figures show that currently the average cost of compulsory items of secondary school uniform and sportswear is £101.19 per pupil when they start secondary school and, given that less than half of these items need to be replaced each year, the average annual spend beyond the first year is just £36.24.
Matthew Easter, co-chair of the SA, commented: “It’s vital that any changes to government policy must take into account the demonstrable benefits that a school-specific uniform delivers for pupils, schools and parents. The policy recommendations within our report will ensure that uniform continues to act a social leveller within schools, as well as reducing bullying, promoting academic achievement and improving behaviour in the classroom.
“School-specific uniform garments are made to much higher standards, making them more durable and better value for parents in the long run as they will last longer than high street alternatives.
“Our latest survey using actual data gathered across the country also shows that uniform costs are much lower than often quoted by detractors of school uniform – with seven in ten parents and three-quarters of headteachers stating the cost of school-specific uniform and sportswear was less than £100 for a new pupil.
“These are sensible, realistic policy recommendations that will benefit schools, pupils and parents. We don’t want any changes to school uniform policy to put people in a position where they are having to buy replacement items on a regular basis – costing more money in the long run, and further adding to the impact that clothing has on the environment.
“Uniform by its nature does not change from year to year unlike fashion, which makes choosing good quality garments in the first place the most logical choice in all respects.”