Schools in Nottinghamshire have been reminded to ensure costs of their uniforms are “reasonable” amid concerns over high prices for branded school items.
Councillor Tracey Taylor (Con), chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council’s children and young peoples’ committee, said she has written to schools to raise the point as concerns mount over costly bespoke uniforms at some schools.
Her comments are in a written answer to a question which was due to be posed at a full council meeting in March, when Cllr Taylor was expected to be asked if she supports the “growing campaign” to stop schools insisting on branded items.
The question, posed by Cllr Andy Meakin (Ash Ind), was not asked due to time limits during the meeting but the council has since published Cllr Taylor’s answer in full.
In her response, Cllr Taylor, who represents Misterton, said she supports measures to minimise the cost of school items “especially when other costs of living are rising”.
She says no child should “suffer or miss out on education” due to costly uniforms and confirmed the authority has reminded all schools about new Government guidance regarding costs and value of items.
Cllr Taylor said: “The Government published guidance regarding branded school uniforms in November 2021. This stated all schools must ensure ‘school uniform costs are reasonable and parents get the best value for money’.
“Nottinghamshire County Council has reminded all schools through our schools bulletin, and in governors’ newsletters, about the statutory guidance on the cost of uniforms published on 19 November.
“All schools should ensure that their uniform policy is published on their website and is clear and easy for parents to understand.
“This administration is encouraging all schools, regardless of their governance, to consider these matters carefully when setting their uniform policy for the next academic year.”
Some schools ask parents to buy items with the school’s emblem embroidered into the fabric, which is often only available from one or a limited number of suppliers, rather than allowing families to buy cheaper, generic items and the emblem individually.
The council’s children and young people’s committee has previously discussed the issue, and the authority has an ‘exceptional payments’ scheme to help families struggling with uniform costs.
Exceptional circumstances are defined as “families who have experienced and can demonstrate severe hardship which has resulted in the family being unable to afford the cost of school uniform and where this affects the ability of the children attending school”.
This includes families who have lost clothes in a fire, a flood, theft or have been made homeless or are fleeing domestic violence.
And speaking after the issue was discussed at the committee’s meeting in March, Cllr Daniel Williamson (Ash Ind), who represents Kirkby South, labelled branded uniforms “utterly ridiculous”.
He said: “We have a massive cost of living increase and utility bills are soaring. There is no real wage increase to match it.
“We end up in a desperate situation where parents are paying for something with a little emblem on it for five or six times the cost of unbranded uniforms.
“It’s about a child’s access to education rather than their appearance. You should be presentable but not at a cost of your ability to learn.
“The real impact is the unbearable cost on parents.”