The Welsh Government recently announced that, from September, schools in Wales will have to consider the guidelines on school uniform, which are there ostensibly to make uniforms more affordable, generic and gender neutral.
This change to statutory guidelines undoubtedly poses serious questions for those working in the schoolwear sector, particularly the manufacturers and retailers offering school- specific options. Schools will have to show they have taken the guidelines into account, but there is nothing to force them to make changes to their uniform as long as the process has been transparent.
As an association, we welcome the development on gender-neutral uniform. A significant number of our members already offer gender-neutral options, and we believe that students should be able to wear the elements of the uniform in which they feel most comfortable, as long as they honour the uniform and represent their schools. Changes to statutory guidelines on the quality and characteristics of a uniform could, however, leave schools in an incredibly difficult position. The Association advised the Welsh government on the true value of a high quality school uniform on many occasions – all without response.
What we recommend is that a school’s uniform policy is sensible and takes into account the quality of garments and the value to parents and students. A cheaper uniform often means lower quality and less durability, which could leave parents spending more in the long run. Fast fashion is not in the interests of schools, parents, pupils or the environment. High quality, specific uniform lasts longer, is more durable and has less of an impact on the environment. We also know that school-specific uniform instils a sense of pride and belonging amongst students, as well as improving security and pupil safety outside of the school gates and on the journey to school.
The actual cost of uniform is considerably below the wild estimates made in the media and schools tend to make the best decisions for their pupils. Most will understand that there is a good harmony between school-specific and generic uniform, and there is overwhelming support for a balanced uniform from the vast majority of parents.