Following the results of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report into school uniforms, the National Governors Association (NGA), in conjunction with leading schoolwear supplier, Trutex, has drawn up a recommended code of practice for schools and uniform suppliers, designed to ensure that parents are able to purchase best value school uniform.
Following a period of consultation with Trutex, which has been acting in an advisory capacity, the NGA has developed a series of guidelines to ensure that schools and uniform suppliers are working to the same agreed principles when establishing a uniform policy. With the primary aim being to ensure that school uniform policy is inclusive in its nature, taking into account a wide number of factors such as schools’ location, the demographics and socio-economic profile of parents and pupils as well as price, product and availability. Consequently, schools are advised to consider all supply options including online and mail order and must show that a tender / competitive quotation phase has been entered into.
Furthermore, evaluation of suppliers must take into account a number of criteria including product quality and durability, fair pricing and all year round availability. The code also recommends that schools consult with the parent / pupil body prior to the award of contract and must show which items must be school specific uniform items and which, if any, can be general clothing meeting general colour specifications.
Commenting on the new directive, Jean McEntire, chief executive, NGA said: “Previously, much emphasis has been placed on the cost of schoolwear and while this is an important factor, it is not the only one that could exclude certain families when buying schoolwear. We are advising schools that if they are to have a good uniform procurement policy that is truly inclusive, then it must cover all of these aspects set out in the code of practice.”
The NGA has written to all school governors in England notifying them of the new code. Schools will be encouraged to use the code as a checklist and also to establish whether their suppliers have signed the code of practice.
Luke Conod, managing director of School Uniform Shop said: “We are pleased and proud to be one of the first online retailers in the UK to sign up to the NGA School Uniform Code of Best Practice. We were delighted when the NGA announced the School Uniform Code of Best Practice as it highlighted and confirmed to parents and schools alike the practices and policies we have been using for many years. The School Uniform Code of Best Practice will be an invaluable tool for schools to ensure they work with retailers that provide quality school uniform at a fair price, and customer service that is second to none.”
Clare Rix, marketing director at Trutex said: “We as an industry had to address the issues raised in the OFT report and react in a positive way. We believe that a voluntary best practice code is the best way of providing value for money for parents. It is imperative that the whole process of uniform choice is made completely transparent, so that parents understand how supply is finalised. Our aim has been to improve the way in which school uniform policy is established within schools, which will in turn benefit the industry by establishing a level playing field for everyone involved.”
The Department for Education and Skills will shortly be issuing further guidance on schoolwear, which will be added to the code, as will any future modification if and when required.