Wales cracks down on unaffordable school uniforms

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:

A major consultation by the Welsh government could see the end of school logos on uniforms, allowing parents to buy basic items from high street chains.

Welsh education secretary Kirsty Williams is asking school governors and leaders to consider ways of making uniforms more affordable for parents and more “gender neutral”.

In new draft statutory guidance she focuses on “securing equality of treatment” between pupils of different genders and ethnic backgrounds, the growing costs of uniforms, and the practical issues of allowing uniform policy to change during hot or cold weather.

The guidance is seeking to stop confusion and rows over pupils being adjudged to be in “incorrect” uniform. There have been instances of pupils being sent home for wearing shorts in hot weather and girls being disciplined for wearing tights in the cold.

Ms Williams said she is seeking “a more consistent approach when school governing bodies set school uniform and appearance policy”.

“I don’t want our learners, for whatever reason, to feel uncomfortable about wearing their uniform,” she said.

“That’s why it’s so important that as many young people as possible take part in this consultation and tell us their views.”

While recognising that a uniform can “provide a sense of identity and cohesion within the school”, her draft guidance also states that “school uniform policy can be a financial burden, particularly for low income and large families”.

It suggests that policy should only stipulate basic items and colours but not styles so that items can be bought from multiple retail chains at reasonable prices and not just from one authorised supplier.

Requiring school logos on polo shirts, jumpers, blazers and PE kit, obtainable from specialist suppliers can be costly, it adds, so schools should consider the necessity of such items.

“If a governing body determines that uniform items with logos are required, schools should limit logos to one item (reasonably priced and widely available) which is worn frequently, e.g. a sweater or cardigan,” the draft guidance states.

“No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply for admission or to attend a particular school.”

The guidance notes some of the issues surrounding uniform: that a governing body may be regarded as discriminating if it does not accommodate religious needs concerning dress and that governors need to be mindful that school uniform and appearance policies do not disadvantage disabled pupils.

It adds that school uniform should not “discriminate on the basis of sex or gender identity” and that, “schools need to consider whether flexibility is needed in relation to uniform to meet the needs of a pupil who is undergoing gender reassignment”.


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