Devon councillors back bid to cut cost of school uniforms

MPs across Devon are being urged to back a bid to cut the cost of school uniforms in England.

County council bosses unanimously agreed to write to Whitehall representatives and call on them to support the bill.

The legislation proposed by Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury aims to strengthen existing guidance encouraging schools to keep down costs.

It could also force them to keep compulsory branded items – like blazers – to a minimum.

If enacted into law, the bill would give the Department for Education’s 2013 school uniform guidance a statutory footing.

This demands value-for-money for families and discourages deals between schools and single uniform suppliers which restrict competition and drive up costs for parents.

A motion put forward by Councillor Rob Hannaford was unanimously supported at full meeting of Devon County Council (DCC) on Thursday.

Labour Group leader Cllr Hannaford said: “This would enable families to shop around and get cheaper school uniforms. We should help our families and move this forward and I hope all members vote for it.”

His motion said: “In August 2018, the Children’s Society published an update to the report, based on a survey of 1,000 parents, which highlighted uniform costs and the potential impact on children.

“The report, The Wrong Blazer 2018: Time For Action on School Uniform Costs, revealed families are paying out more on school uniforms, with an average of £340 per year for each child at secondary school – an increase of seven per cent, or £24 since 2015. Parents of primary school children spent on average £255 per year, an increase of two per cent since 2015.

“The high cost of uniforms can be put down in part to school policies that make parents buy clothing from specialist shops rather than giving them the choice of buying items at cheaper stores such as supermarkets or high street chains.

“Where parents have to buy two or more items of school uniform from a specific supplier, spending was found to be an average of £71 per year higher for secondary school children and £77 higher for primary school children.

“For children themselves, the cost of school uniform can have a serious impact. Around one in 10 parents said it had led to their child wearing uniform that didn’t fit properly, and more than one in 20 said that their child had been sent home for wearing the wrong clothes or shoes as a result of them struggling to afford the cost.

“The council are asked to formally write to all Members of Parliament in the Devon County Council area and to urge them to actively support and vote for this Private Members Bill, through all its parliamentary stages to ensure that it is enacted into law at the earliest opportunity.”

The second reading of the bill in Parliament is due to take place on March 13.

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