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School Uniform Costs — [Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:11 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 3:11 pm, 5th November 2019

We keep those issues under review. As has been pointed out, we are running out of time in this Session, but if a Conservative Government are returned with a functioning majority, I am sure that we will give urgent priority to legislating on the matter in question.

The CMA stated its approval of our commitment to place our guidance on a statutory footing when a suitable legislative opportunity arises, as I am sure it will after the general election. In turn, the Secretary of State has reaffirmed our commitment to do so, which will send a clear signal that we expect schools to ensure that uniform costs are reasonable. I should make it clear that the Government’s stated intention to make school uniform affordable does not undermine our commitment to the principle of uniform itself. Putting our guidance on a statutory footing is directly intended to ensure that school uniforms are affordable for all.

In England, some local authorities provide discretionary grants to help with buying school uniforms. It is a matter for the local authority to decide whether to offer those grants and to set their own criteria for eligibility. Schools may offer individual clothing schemes, such as offering second-hand uniform at reduced prices, as in the uniform scheme that we have heard about today. As I have said, schools can choose to use their pupil premium funding to offer subsidies or grants for school uniforms. Again, that will be a decision for the school to make.

I am enormously grateful for the support that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle has given on this issue. She has raised some important concerns, and I hope that she is relatively happy that the Government also recognise the cost of school uniform as important. We want all children, wherever they are and whatever their background, to be able to secure a good school place, and we do not want the cost of uniform to act as a barrier. The steps that we have taken underline the importance of the cost of school uniform in helping the most disadvantaged members of our society to get access to a good education. The Government have made a commitment to legislate on the issue, which we intend to honour.