A Bradford group campaigning to lower the price of school uniforms has welcomed a move by the Office of Fair Trading urging schools to review their uniform policies.
The Our Shout campaign group, run by the Save the Children charity, took a market stall of overpriced school wear to Westminster last month to campaign against the cost for poorer families.
The OFT meanwhile had written to 29,500 state primary and secondary schools in the UK asking them to review their uniform policies, in a move which could see families save tens of millions of pounds if schools removed restrictions.
The move followed an OFT survey of state schools across the UK which found that when items can only be purchased from certain retailers or suppliers selected by the school or from the school shop, prices can be as much as £5 to £10 higher than if families were able to freely shop around.
Richard Dunbar, Save the Children’s project officer for Our Shout, said: “The OFT is doing a service to families by looking at this issue.
“It’s not acceptable to expect parents to fork out hundreds of pounds per term for school clothing or for children to be bullied for not fitting in.
“The young people in the Our Shout group felt passionately this was wrong and we’re so proud of them for working so hard to make their voices heard.”
The survey found schools use a single supplier for a number of reasons, such as wanting consistent, good quality uniforms for their pupils and convenience for parents.
The OFT recognised these qualities are important, but believes schools can still have smart school uniform policies without appointing a single supplier. For example, schools could achieve consistency through setting out colour and style requirements in more detail but still allow parents choice.
Susan Oxley, assistant director in the OFT’s goods and consumer group, said: “We know schools don’t want families to be left out of pocket and we have written to schools across the UK asking them to review their policies .”
Our Shout group member Charleace Kesler, 15, of Canterbury, said: “The price of school uniform is so important; it affects all young people hroughout the whole country.
“School can be a difficult place if you don’t have the right uniform. We want decision makers to sit up and listen and give young people’s opinions the attention and respect that they deserve”.