Best practice tendering guidance from the Schoolwear Association helps schools get the best deal on uniforms

Press release – 15 April 2021

The Schoolwear Association, the organisation that represents all those involved in the supply of school specific uniforms, today releases new uniform tendering guidance for schools. The guidance aims to simplify the often-complex process of appointing a new school uniform supplier, so schools are properly equipped to secure the best value and highest quality uniform by ensuring competition at the point of selecting a uniform provider.

Whilst the benefits of school uniforms are widely recognised by schools and parents, this is the first time that guidance is being provided across the sector to embed consistent competitive processes and standards in the uniform tendering process.

An effective tendering process allows both schools and families to achieve the best value for several reasons. Retailers can, for instance, better plan their stock levels and develop reasonable uniform policies alongside schools they work on a sole-supply basis with, truly getting to know the school and its community – this makes it easier for the retailer to offer hardship measures to families that might be struggling to meet the cost of uniforms. Working with a competitively selected sole supplier also means parents know they are always able to access clothing in the full range of sizes and colours available, all year round.

The newly released guidance from the Schoolwear Association is being sent to school leaders in England this week, to advise them on how best to appoint a uniform provider based on the fundamental principles of: competition, transparency, fairness, accountability and integrity, value for money, and timeframe. Also included in the 37-page document are template contracts to be used throughout the process and a tender response checklist for schools to ensure best practice.

The Schoolwear Association has worked closely with procurement experts to ensure its approach is both rigorous and clear. The document also complements the approach the government is taking as it updates uniform guidance through the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill 2019-2020, and the Schoolwear Association has consulted with policymakers in preparation of this document.

Matthew Easter, Co-Chair of the Schoolwear Association, said: “As a leading schoolwear industry trade body, it’s up to us to ensure that parents are getting the best value for money when it comes to school uniforms. There’s long been the assumption that there’s a lack of competition in the school uniform market – this simply isn’t true. Competition does and should exist at the tendering stage, and so it’s vital that schools get this right. Our hope is that this guidance will make the process of choosing a uniform supplier as robust, competitive and easy as possible.”

Geoff Hopper, Head of Procurement at the Harris Federation, added: Selecting a school uniform supplier can be a be a time-consuming and complicated process for all schools. At the Harris Federation, we’ve seen enormous benefits from having our own tendering guidance in place for uniform procurement. It’s important for parents to know that they’re getting the best possible price for good quality uniforms, and a consistent process to tendering is central to this. We were grateful for the Schoolwear Association’s support in developing our guidance, and hope this is similarly well received by schools up and down the country.”

Links to download the SA’s tendering documents are available below:

Schoolwear Association – Tender Guidance – PDF

Schoolwear Association – Tender Guidance – Word Document

Schoolwear Association – APPENDIX 1 – Award Stage – Schedule 4 – Pricing