The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Chair, Lord Andrew Tyrie, is urging schools to allow parents the flexibility to shop around for their childrens’ school uniforms.
In a letter to the Education Secretary dated Sept 4, Lord Tyrie explained that school uniforms are a major cost to families, adding that the cost is higher where schools require uniforms to be purchased from a single supplier.
Some UK schools insist that parents purchase school uniforms from exclusive suppliers, despite the availability of affordable options sold elsewhere.
Tyrie added: “In 2015, the CMA wrote an open letter to schools and school uniform suppliers advising them that less restrictive policies could improve value for money, and reminding them that competition law may prohibit certain conduct and exclusive arrangements between schools and uniform suppliers.
“Despite this, the CMA continues to receive a surge of complaints from parents and carers every summer about the excessive cost of uniforms where school policies prevent items being purchased from cheaper alternative suppliers.”
He further warned that “action is needed, as soon as parliamentary time allows,” adding that families across the UK could benefit from statutory guidance to school governing boards that take into account of cost and affordability in their uniform policies, and avoid contracts with single suppliers.
Meanwhile, Schools Week reported that during a joint education and work and pensions select committee session on Wednesday, Labour MP Emma Hardy called on the government to encourage schools to cease branding all their items, or make branding optional.
She has asked for the support of academies minister Lord Agnew in calling for schools to limit the cost of uniforms.
“There is a specific problem of a relatively small number of schools who use this requirement of monopoly suppliers for school uniforms and I don’t like it because it’s a pernicious way of excluding children from less well-off backgrounds,” Agnew was quoted saying in the report.
He added: “I’m a practical person and we just need to tell these schools to not be so ridiculous, frankly. I’m happy to amend the guidance.
“On the separate issue of these monopoly-type deals, I want to go after them. I hate monopolists in every form that they come and this is particularly pernicious.”