There are many practical benefits to uniform, but it’s important to consider the impact it can have on families, particularly those from disadvantaged households.
Not only do they have to buy school uniform, they must also purchase shoes, trainers, bags, stationery and so forth. The more complicated or costly the requirements, the more likely you are to end up with tensions.
While having one or two ‘preferred suppliers’ can help ensure that the children look smart and ‘uniform’, asking for branded items from a single outlet can place an unwelcome financial burden on parents. On the other hand, allowing parents to source their own items can result in disagreements over whether or not a particular item fits the bill.
The DfE has published non-statutory guidance on uniform that offers a useful starting point for decision making and further discussion.
It states that, “No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply to, or attend, a school of their choice, due to the cost of the uniform.” As such, it’s advisable for schools to observe some important points.
Consider the total cost of the uniform you’re asking parents to buy. If you insist on branded items, how does the cost of these compare to similar unbranded items purchased in a supermarket? Many supermarkets now sell very cheap ‘value’ uniform.
If you allow unbranded uniform garments, such as plain polo tops, have a clear policy in place as to what these should look like. Consider sending parents a list of local stockists that will help them meet your requirements.
Shoes are often a point of conflict, so make sure your policy is clear and specific about exactly what is and isn’t allowed. Images of suitable footwear can be a helpful prompt.
Try looking into bulk buy offers that could make branded items cheaper. Can you agree a deal with a local supplier and pass the discount to parents buying directly from the school? At my preschool, we buy uniform items in bulk and sell them at cost price direct to families.
- Consider the practicalities for parents in purchasing uniform. If possible, ensure that there’s more than one local outlet which stocks your uniform so that there’s an element of price competition.
- Think about sizes – make sure your uniform works for both the smallest and the largest children.
- A number of schools now use pupil premium funding to buy sets of uniform for families who might otherwise struggle to afford it. This can be a great way of relieving a source of stress for parents and supporting attendance.