End overpriced school uniforms
With family budgets squeezed, Laws believes schools should place more emphasis on value for money for parents when choosing new uniforms. He will urge schools to end the practice of using a single uniform supplier, which stops parents from shopping around to find the best deal.
The new guidance, to be issued by the Department for Education on Monday, will ask governing bodies to:
- Avoid exclusive single supplier contracts except when regular tendering competitions are run, in which more than one supplier can compete for the contract, and where best value can be secured;
- Not enter into "cash back" arrangements;
- Not insist that pupils wear expensive items of uniform;
- Not make frequent changes to uniform specifications;
- Seek to select items that can be purchased cheaply, for example in a supermarket or other good value shop;
- Keep compulsory branded items to a minimum.
An Office of Fair Trading investigation in 2012 found three quarters of schools placed restrictions on where uniforms could be bought. At a typical price difference of £5 between an item bought from a single supplier and a supermarket, the report suggested that parents of school age children lose out on a total of £52 million each year.
The revamped guidance, which schools are expected to follow, will say that schools should consider best value for parents and should seek parents' views before changing a school uniform.
David 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.
"Parents need to be able to shop around to find the best deal. I want to see fewer schools using single suppliers and branded items, which keep costs unnecessarily high."