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New law in autumn to make school uniform costs affordable – what can we do now? 

By Hayley Dunn, ASCL Business Leadership Specialist

A new law was passed by Parliament on 29 April to make school uniform costs affordable. The Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Act 2021 applies from July 2021*, but it will become a requirement for schools to follow the government guidance when it is published, expected in the Autumn Term 2021. 

Who does this law apply to?
The Act extends to England and Wales and applies to academies, alternative provision academies, maintained, non-maintained special school and pupil referral unit not established in a hospital.

What is the intent of the law?
Its full title is A bill to make provision for guidance to schools about the costs aspects of school uniform policies.

The government is aiming to ensure families are not deterred from applying to a school due to the costs for its uniform. Recognising the costs families face for school uniform, particularly for branded items, and the statutory guidance will tell schools to consider high street alternatives.

What do we know so far about what the law requires?
It enables the government to set statutory guidance for schools to consider about costs for school uniforms. The Bill requires that the Secretary of State must issue guidance to the appropriate authorities of relevant schools in England about the cost(s) aspects of school uniform policies and will have powers to revise the guidance. In the section of the bill on “costs aspects of school uniform policies”, this is defined as meaning any aspects of school uniform policies that the Secretary of State considers relevant to the costs of school uniforms.

It will require schools to follow new statutory guidance on uniform costs, instructing them to keep prices down. Once guidance is published, schools will be required by law to consider it when developing their uniform policies. It will include measures on encouraging second-hand uniforms. With regards to schools’ arrangements with suppliers, it will advise them to make sure that when they take up contracts with uniform suppliers, they are competitive and transparent to keep costs down, ensuring families have access to clear information about uniform policies.

What are the next steps?
The Department for Education intends to publish the statutory guidance in the autumn this year.

FAQs
When does this law come into effect? 
The law applies from July 2021, but it will become a requirement for schools to follow the government guidance when it is published, this is expected in the autumn term, 2021.

What does minimise branded items mean? 
This will depend on what is included in the guidance when it is published.

Does the new legislation extend to PE kit which is often more extreme than the basic uniform? 
This will depend on what is included in the guidance when it is published, but we think it is likely that it will include all items of school uniform.

Further reading
Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Act 2021
Government press release 29 April 2021

*“This Act comes into force at the end of the period of two months beginning with the day on which it is passed.”


Hayley Dunn is ASCL's Business Leadership Specialist.

 
Posted: 19/07/2021 14:44:43