Friday, 4 December 2015

Seven reasons why school-specific school uniform is important:

Stories in the national media sometimes focus on the cost of school uniform without acknowledging the benefits. 

School uniform is a serious matter and should not be brought down to the lowest common denominator. There is real value in school uniform, for both children and schools.

Here are seven reasons why the Schoolwear Association believes school-specific uniform should be respected:

1. School Uniform is an important part of a child’s life. A quality uniform can help to give confidence and promote pride and a sense of community.

2. Supermarkets do not sell school uniform, they sell clothes which can be worn at school, at very cheap prices for a short period to get footfall through their stores. There is a very big difference between clothes for school and a properly balanced school uniform.

3. The right balance between school specific and generic is essential, otherwise it is not effective as
a proper school uniform.

4. Respect, for the uniform, for the rest of the school rules and the teachers, is an essential part of the smooth functioning of a School. Sir Michael Wilshaw has made his views very clear on its importance on a number of occasions.

5. Every August and early September, there is a hysteria in the media, which is totally misguided. On the whole Schools and Parents make good choices.

6. The only time any parent has to spend significant money on uniform at Back to School, is for the start of Year 7, when their child moves to secondary school. The cost can be spread over many months by using a Schoolwear Specialist, who is usually a member of the Schoolwear Association.

7. Independent Research has shown that school uniform is great value for money, much cheaper than clothing worn out of school hours, and that the vast majority of parents are satisfied with their School’s current arrangements.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

From Our Chair David Burgess

The Schoolwear Association (SA) welcomes the Chancellor's announcement that the DfE Uniform Guidelines will become statutory. Since our inception in 2006 we have been the voice of our industry and we have striven to communicate the complexities of supply in our market. We believe that Mr Osborne’s announcement will create greater certainty for schools when they make decisions to procure proper and fitting school uniform.

We believe that schools generally make sensible and pragmatic decisions about supply, price and the balance of school uniform.

Most people recognise the benefits that a good quality, school-specific uniform confers on a school and its pupils. Research by Oxford Brookes University this summer supported our contention that school uniform usually represents excellent value, not just for the benefits it brings in improved behaviour, learning and child safety but also on parents’ pockets when compared to the cost of clothes that children wear out of school. So we find it disappointing that some pressure groups have quoted inflated prices to make their point and catch a headline that we simply do not recognise as the norm.

The Oxford Brookes University research brings some much-needed balance to the debate and some more realistic figures on the price of a complete school uniform over an average of 100 state schools.
We recognise that we have some way to go to educate and inform those outside of our industry about how it actually works, but we welcome the opportunity.

Both the Department for Education (DfE) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) advise us that the instances of real complaints received from parents are small and have continued to fall. We find this reassuring and at odds with the negative rhetoric that we sometimes see broadcast. Of course we understand that when a uniform is specified there is always the likelihood that someone will find issues with it. We recommend schools seek balance in a uniform with a mix of items specific to the school and other items of a more generic nature. Our members’ experience is that most parents are happy with the arrangements of their school. A proper tendering process will help schools to decide the best arrangements for their needs.  

We remain concerned about the plight of children who, for whatever reason, find it difficult to afford school uniform. Our members continue to work with schools and charities to try to assist, and collectively we donate many garments to those in need. We will continue to work with our partners to find ways to ensure that every child, whatever his or her circumstances, has access to a well-made, long-lasting, school-specific uniform. We are issuing advice for our members and schools on best practice in procurement and supply processes to help ensure uniform remains affordable. This is work that we will continue to do, and we will happily contribute to the debate and offer our support to that process with all interested parties.

Our collective experience tells us that school uniform works best when it includes school-specific items. The idea that our children should wear generic uniform available from anywhere would create a difficult situation for schools and lead to the breakdown of this essential part of our school culture. We believe passionately that school-specific uniform is a key part of what gives a school its identity and helps it to maintain discipline and respect. Our research shows that school students, parents, teachers, head teachers and governors overwhelmingly agree.

We will continue to work with partners and other stakeholders to help improve every aspect of uniform supply. Our members commit via our Code of Practice to supply EVERY child. This will include all shapes and sizes and indeed those with special needs such as allergies or disabilities. Dedicated school uniform suppliers will supply uniform for every child who needs it all year, not just at the more lucrative back to school period over the summer holidays.

The Schoolwear Association is dedicated to working with everyone involved in the supply chain to help deliver the best value, which is always a combination of quality, consistency, service, availability and price. We look forward to helping schools with their uniform decisions, in whatever way we can.

David Burgess, Chair of The Schoolwear Association

The Schoolwear Association was formed in 2006 to promote the benefits of school specific uniform and to establish strong standards in the supply chain of garments to parents and schools.

The Association is proud to have in excess of 200 supplier and retail members who pay a subscription to support the work of the Association. The industry has adopted a code of practice and works with schools to further the provision of good school uniform and all the benefits that confers on both the school, and the students. Their members supply 75% of all schools in the UK.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Schoolwear Association welcomes the announcement that the Government is to put existing best practice guidance for school uniform supply in England on a statutory footing.

David Burgess, Chair of the Schoolwear Association, which represents those involved in the supply of school uniform in the UK, said:

“This announcement will clarify the situation for schools and suppliers. It means that if schools want the benefits of an exclusive supplier arrangement - such as having all sizes available, all year round – they will have to run regular competitions to choose the providers. This is in line with our policy to encourage schools to go through regular tendering exercises to ensure best value. We will be helping our members and the schools they serve to make any changes necessary, including offering guides for specifying uniform and draft tender documents. We emphasize value. It is very important that schools consider quality, durability and suitability when specifying uniform because cheap price does not always represent best quality. By making sensible decisions with specialist suppliers, we believe schools can reach a happy balance. We want every school child to have an affordable uniform that is also smart, specific to their school and fit for purpose with all the benefits that brings in better learning, behaviour and child safety as well as affordability.”

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Statement in response to Competition and Markets Authority issuing an open letter to schools, governors, retailers and suppliers regarding competition within the school uniform market

“As the organisation representing all those involved in the supply of schoolwear, we have been asked to be part of the process looking into competition within the schoolwear market, and we are keen to participate.

“Our first priority is that every child should be able to go to school in a smart, well-made, school-specific uniform.

“Parents and schools understand the benefits of good quality uniform, which have been well documented and include improved learning, behaviour and wellbeing.

“We encourage schools to seek value by providing advice on garment selection and competitive tendering. We have lobbied the government to remove VAT on school uniform and to enable a voucher scheme, similar to childcare vouchers. Many of our members work with schools to help disadvantaged families to have access to uniform, and we also advise schools on affordability initiatives such as savings clubs.

“We are anxious that the focus on school uniform should not be solely on price at the expense of poorer quality. Well-made, long-lasting uniform is not only better value in the long term but also the most environmentally sustainable option, and we should remember that children spend an average of ten hours a day in their uniform so comfort and durability are vital.

“Our members are often local, independent family businesses who feel a genuine responsibility to provide quality products at the most competitive prices to local schools and parents. Responsible schoolwear specialists encourage schools to use a sensible mix of school specific products with generic garments that are available from numerous sources, so schools create a smart corporate look at an acceptable price.

“There are some benefits to sole supplier arrangements, particularly because a single supplier is dedicated to the school and required to stock uniform all year round in all sizes. When there are two or more suppliers, that sense of duty diminishes, and the school has less power to demand best value and service levels. If a school decides on a sole supplier arrangement, we strongly recommend periodically putting contracts out to tender where quotations can be compared on quality, service levels, year-round stocking, ethical sourcing and price.”

David Burgess, Chair of The Schoolwear Association

The Schoolwear Association was formed in 2006 to promote the benefits of school specific uniform and to establish strong standards in the supply chain of garments to parents and schools.

The Association is proud to have in excess of 200 supplier and retail members who pay a subscription to support the work of the Association. The industry has adopted a code of practice and works with schools to further the provision of good school uniform and all the benefits that confers on both the school, and the students. Their members supply 75% of all schools in the UK.

Friday, 21 August 2015

School uniforms are great value for money!

For years, the Association has fought against criticism that school uniform is too expensive, but now we have proof that this isn’t the case!

According to the latest study, school uniform costs on average just 45p per school day. A relatively small price compared to the £113 price tag for the outfits children wear when they aren’t in school.
Here at Schoolwear Association we believe that it is important for every child to wear school uniform, to give them a sense of pride with their school and to improve behaviour. With children spending at least 10 hours a day wearing school uniform, we believe uniform should be good value for money and long lasting, something which we are constantly encouraging.

The new research reveals the average secondary school outfit is priced at £88.05, just 45 pence per school day. With PE kit, the total averages £127.32. A Primary school uniform comes to £33.48, rising to £42.32 with a PE kit. A separate poll of 2,000 parents shows they typically spend more on outfits the children wear outside of school than they do on uniform, with almost half dressing their children in high street and designer fashions. The average non-uniform outfit came in at £113.
Our Chairman, David Burgess, is keen to tackle the common misconception that school uniform is too expensive. “We completely understand that for the poorest in society, uniform is a major expense but most schools have arrangements to look after them, and many of our members contribute to those schemes by providing free uniform to those in need. Most parents can afford to buy their children’s uniform, and like teachers, they agree that quality, school specific uniform contributes to better education and behaviour. It is a worthwhile investment, and we believe every child is worth it.”

Monday, 11 May 2015

"David Cameron must recognise the importance of school uniform and help independent British businesses"

David Burgess, the newly elected Chair of The Schoolwear Association, gives his thoughts on the results of the 2015 general election.
Last Friday's election results came as quite a shock to many, who were expecting a hung parliament in one of the most uncertain elections in Britain for 40 years. I see the result being positive for businesses, as we now won’t be looking at uncertainty.
We do not know what the Conservatives will plan to do specifically in terms of school uniform but what we do know is that as an association we are now very well placed to continue influencing the decision makers. It is part of our mission to make sure that Ministers, MPs and civil servants – as well as the public, teachers and governors - fully appreciate the benefits of school-specific uniform. We also know that education is important to the Conservatives, and that they are in favour of school pupils having a smart appearance.
We want this government to realise how important a good-quality school-specific uniform is to a child’s education and well-being and most importantly to put forward measures to help parents with education costs. Our members, who together clothe three quarters of Britain’s schoolchildren, are committed to providing high quality uniform, and we want the government to help families to afford the very best schoolwear that their children deserve.
Our members are all also British businesses providing jobs in the retail, wholesale and manufacturing sector so it is very encouraging to hear that the country’s economy grew by 2.6% last year and we want to keep it that way.
These members continue to face structural and economic pressures, not least unreasonable competition from a few overly powerful supermarket chains, so the new government needs to be supportive of small businesses.
For years we have lobbied for the exchequer to remove VAT on clothes for teenage students and more recently to introduce tax free school uniform vouchers. Although these have not yet been successful, we will not stop until something is done to help parents with the necessity that is school uniform.