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Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:40 am on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South 10:40 am, 13th March 2020

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I am sure that all Members will have heard the phrase, “You’ll grow into it.” I suppose many parents hope that their child will not grow out of it.

As a primary school teacher, it never ceased to amaze me how hard-wearing school uniforms can be, when I would see children knee-slide across the hall at the school disco, or rolling around in the playground. I believe that there should be simplicity and longevity in school uniforms, to make the cost to parents lower than that of personal clothes.

However, the rise of branded school uniforms and the requirement to have a vast number of items, including branded PE kits, separate GCSE clothes and bespoke skirts, is making school uniforms unaffordable for many. I do not believe that parents should have to decide where to send their children to school based on which has the least number of bespoke garments, many of which may never be worn. Branded items can cost multiple times the non-branded equivalent, and using sole suppliers only exacerbates the problem.

Uniform costs can enter hundreds of pounds as children outgrow clothes and shoes. My constituency of Blackpool South unfortunately has some of the most deprived wards in the country. It is known that material deprivation can have a serious impact on school attainment. Despite being a big supporter of the previously mentioned zero-tolerance policy, it is often the children of low-income families who fall foul of the rules, and they can miss out on crucial learning as a result. I hope that this change in legislation will help those parents trying to do the right thing to send their children to school with the necessary tools to succeed.

I welcome the Government’s support for the Bill, and their commitment to levelling up per-pupil funding across the entire country. They have a clear commitment to ensure that all children receive a first-class education, whatever their background and wherever they live. Schools have a responsibility to ensure that the costs to parents are reasonable, and it is right that the Bill will make that statutory.