Law for more affordable school uniform could be in place by next academic year

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·2-min read
P3 teacher Jessica Cargill with her class at Springfield Primary School in Belfast. Today marks the first day back for Pre-school, nursery and primary school pupils in P1-P3 have retruned to classrooms across Northern Ireland. Picture date: Monday March 8, 2021.
Jessica Cargill with her class at Springfield Primary School in Belfast. (PA)

A law to make school uniforms more affordable for parents could be in place before the start of the next academic year in September.

The Education (Guidance About Costs of School Uniform) Bill, championed by Labour MP Mike Amesbury, aims to cut the cost of school uniforms for parents.

The proposed legislation would make guidance on uniform costs given to schools legally binding and ensure the price tags on branded items, like blazers, are kept to a minimum.

It comes after the bill cleared its final stages in the House of Commons on Friday after a six-year campaign.

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Now the bill will be passed to the House of Lords, where it will be considered at a later date.

A group of Tory MPs had tabled 16 amendments to the bill, which eventually received an unopposed third reading after more than 3.5 hours of debate.

Former Tory minister Sir Christopher Chope argued the government should consider improvements to avoid the new regulations having unintended consequences on families.

But schools minister Nick Gibb said this would delay the passage of the bill through parliament.

Gibb said the government "wholeheartedly" supports the legislation, saying: "It is designed to ensure the costs of school uniforms are reasonable and that schools secure the best value for parents."

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Amesbury also said his bill would put affordability at "centre stage".

He told the Commons: "This is a short bill but it will make a significant difference to hundreds of thousands of children and families, carers and grandparents throughout our constituencies.

"And I want to thank everybody across the House, whether they're sponsors who have contributed through its journey so far, regardless of political affiliation."

Amesbury added: "I do want to assert that this bill is pro-school uniform, but it's pro-affordable school uniform. There are far too many children and hard-pressed families.

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"And I think it's particularly pertinent now given the national, international health pandemic and the economic consequences we're facing that actually affordability is put centre stage on statute and this bill will do that."

It comes as parents cannot shop around and look for cheaper deals because schools tell them which stores they must buy the approved uniform from.

According to the Mirror, low-income families are forced to pay hundreds of pounds a year on school uniforms.

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