Schools should not force hard-up parents to buy expensive branded uniforms, says Schools minister

David Laws announces new guidelines for school uniform on first day of Liberal Democrat conference

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The Independent Online

The Coalition is calling on schools to stop making parents buy expensive branded uniforms that can push up costs by up to £5 per item.

Schools minister David Laws said the cost of school clothing had become “unnecessarily high” at a time when family budgets were being squeezed.

His comments come after an Office of Fair Trading investigation suggested that three-quarters of schools now placed restrictions on where uniforms could be bought. That typically added £5 to the price tag for each item, leaving parents an estimated £52m a year worse off.

Announcing the new guidance for schools, Mr Laws said exclusive single-supplier contracts should not be used unless regular tendering processes were run to ensure value for money. Schools must also not enter into “cashback” agreements with shops in return for contracts and compulsory items of uniform should be available relatively cheaply. Schools are also urged to avoid changing specifications frequently.

Mr Laws said: “Costs at the start of a school term can quickly add up, particularly for families with several school-age children.

“School uniforms can be an important sign of identity and pride, but at a time when many family budgets are squeezed parents should not be forced to spend more than they need to. We will send a strong signal to schools that it is vital to secure value for money for parents before  changing or introducing new school uniforms.”