Welsh government issues new rules to bring down cost of school uniforms

School badges, logos and branded items must not be compulsory amid cost of living crisis, says Labour-led government.

Schools in Wales have been told that they must not make school badges and logos on uniforms compulsory or force parents to buy branded items of clothing, in an attempt to ease the financial burden on families.

They must also make sure there are arrangements in place for parents and carers to buy secondhand, and not to stipulate styles so that items can be bought from multiple retailers. Blazers and caps should be avoided as part of uniforms.

The new rules are included in statutory guidance published on Tuesday by the Labour-led government. Organisations that work with families struggling to make ends meet have welcomed them.

Jeremy Miles, the education and Welsh language minister, said: “School uniforms are an important part of identity for a school, but it is absolutely vital that uniforms are affordable. This is why I am asking schools to prioritise making school uniforms cheaper for families, who continue to feel the pressure of rising costs.

“We know that branded schoolwear can be a lot more expensive for families – that is why schools shouldn’t make them mandatory. We have seen too many cases where families have had to purchase expensive uniforms.”

The Welsh government makes a schools essentials grant of up to £300 to help families on lower incomes buy uniforms and equipment. It says this is the most generous scheme of its kind in the UK but many families still struggle to meet the costs.

During a public consultation on the issue, 56% of those who responded agreed that logos should not be required on school uniforms, while 27% disagreed.

Nearly 90% of respondents also felt that schools should avoid single-supplier agreements and there was almost universal consensus that schools should operate uniform exchange or recycling schemes.

Victoria Winckler, the director of the Bevan Foundation thinktank, said: “School uniforms can be really expensive, often because schools insist on branded items rather than uniform that can be bought on the high street.

“The Welsh government provides cash towards uniforms and other essentials for pupils from low-income families, but it doesn’t go far when parents have to buy embroidered blazers and the like. The Bevan Foundation has been urging the Welsh government to stop schools penalising less well-off children by requiring expensive kit for some time and we warmly welcome their action.”

The guidance is statutory, meaning that governing bodies and headteachers must have regard to it when formulating and revising their school uniform policies.

Lisa Watkins, who runs a uniform exchange scheme in Caerphilly, south Wales, said most of the hundreds of parents she had helped were working people who were not eligible for the grant. “The cost of school uniforms puts huge pressure on them,” she said.

Watkins said a branded item could be five times the cost of one bought in a supermarket. “It has cost me £300 for my daughter to start at a comprehensive,” she said. “We welcome this move from the Welsh government.”

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