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Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:46 am on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 11:46 am, 13th March 2020

I congratulate Mike Amesbury on his success in the private Member’s Bill ballot and thank him for choosing the cost of school uniform as the subject of his Bill. School uniform has so many positive benefits for pupils and schools alike, and I, along with many of the House today, greatly value its contribution to school life. I am pleased that the Government are able to support his Bill and, indeed, to be working with him, so that families are financially reassured, not burdened, at back-to-school time.

As the hon. Gentleman stated, this Bill is not anti-school uniform—“far from it,” he said—because he remembers his time at a school without a school uniform in that fashion golden age of the late 1970s and early 1980s. He pointed out that a lack of school uniform highlights the difference between

“the haves and the have-nots”.

My hon. Friend Rob Butler cited pupils from William Harding School and St Edward’s Catholic Junior School in his constituency, who said that school uniforms stop children being judged on what they wear. He also went to a school that did not have a school uniform at the time and where the result was close to a “catwalk competition” that he claimed he never won, which frankly surprises me—[Laughter.] My hon. Friend Chris Green raised the cost implications of dress-up day, which was an issue of particular concern at his old school: Hogwarts—[Laughter.]

We debated this issue just a few months ago in a Westminster Hall debate secured by Emma Hardy. Then, as now, our position is that school uniforms should be affordable and good value for families. I am particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Weaver Vale for choosing this topic, as it is a subject that crosses party lines and the Bill will positively improve the lives of families across this country. I support the way that the hon. Member constructed the Bill as a straightforward mechanism to put the non-statutory guidance on school uniform costs on to a statutory footing. I hope that that approach means it will progress quickly through the House.