Schoolwear suppliers believe the Government’s new statutory guidance on uniforms will open up new opportunities for the industry.

Published in November, it requires state schools and academies in England to take steps to remove “unnecessary” branded items and allow more high-street options such as supermarket own-brand uniform.

Developed in consultation with the Schoolwear Association, the guidance came as no surprise to suppliers who have been preparing for it for some time.

Dan Turner, managing director of Stockport-based schoolwear accessories specialist William Turner & Son, said: “We are members of the Schoolwear Association and we think they have done a good job in explaining the uniform market to the Government, so the guidance is quite well-balanced. We feel it has the best intentions in ensuring uniform is affordable for all.”

He said that the guidance built on what many schools were already doing to make uniform more affordable. “Most schools aren’t overdoing it to excess by having more than basic items of uniform.

“The guidance is also encouraging second-hand uniform to be available, and most schools have provision for that already. The better-quality schoolwear gets handed down and it’s the cheaper stuff that ends up in landfill.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, also pointed out that schools were already following the Government’s non-statuary guidance on school uniform, which was previously updated in 2013.

“Schools are acutely aware of the need to keep uniform costs to a minimum, particularly as they often have many students who come from disadvantaged homes,” he said. “They deal on a daily basis with the impact of the high level of child poverty the government has failed to address.”

Jemma Brown, director of Wiltshire-based supplier OHM Clothing, also welcomed the new statutory guidance. “There’s a huge issue with monopolisation and this will help break those down. It won’t mean quality will reduce – it will mean fairer prices for the end user and the opportunity for companies to get a look in.

“It feels fairer and a step in the right direction for breaking down the stigma that school uniform is expensive. We really look forward to working with new schools and schools who have been bound by ludicrous contracts they can’t get out of.”

The new guidance is not expected to have much impact on ties – the core item supplies by William Turner & Son. “A tie is very much a key part of the uniform and a lower-cost item,” Dan Turner explained. “We expect and hope that schools that have ties wouldn’t feel any need to change.”

He noted that the guidance focused mainly on cost rather than value but said he believed that schools and parents understood the difference. “It is value that is important – how long these items last for. Sometimes the higher-priced item is better value because it lasts a lot longer.

“Most consumers appreciate that and are also becoming interested in where something is made and who is making it. They are increasingly concerned about the supply chain being ethical so we will continue to reinforce that.”

Click here for our news report on the publication of the statutory guidance on 19 November 2021.