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May I begin by thanking Mike Amesbury for introducing this private Member’s Bill? As a former teacher, I understand the impact that the high cost of school uniforms can have on parents.
I would like to start by stressing the importance of school uniform, of which I am an ardent supporter. I recently visited two of the top-performing schools in my constituency: the first is a brand-new through school, Armfield Academy; and just last week I welcomed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education to St George’s School. The headteachers of both schools explained that the introduction of a zero-tolerance policy on school uniform had had a profound impact on school standards and results. When I spoke to some of the brilliant pupils at those schools, they told me how proud they were to wear their uniform. They said it gives them a sense of belonging and community, and that it helps them get into the correct mindset for learning. It also puts all pupils on a level playing field, where their personality, achievements and attitude make them stand out, not the cost of their clothes.
I also understand the stress that having no school uniform can bring to parents and children. A single non-uniform day a year can be a cause of concern for some. Parents will worry about sending their children to school if they have not bought the latest fashionable brands—a point articulated by Sam Tarry a few moments ago. Bullying can seriously impact children’s development, and many fear what their peers will say on a non-uniform day. A standard uniform can alleviate these worries and allow children to focus on what is important: their education.