Statement: Welsh Government Announcement
David Burgess, chair of the Schoolwear Association, the representative body for the Specialist Schoolwear Industry said:
“As an Association we welcome the news that schools across Wales will be encouraged to provide gender-neutral uniform from September. A large number of our members already offer gender-neutral uniform, and we believe as long as they are honouring a uniform and representing their school, students should be able to wear the elements of the uniform in which they feel most comfortable.
“What we do recommend though is that a school’s uniform policy is sensible, and takes into account the quality of the garments. A cheaper uniform doesn’t necessarily mean a better one, often cheaper means lower quality and less durability, so parents may find themselves spending more in the long term.
“High quality, school specific uniform also has less of an impact on the environment. It lasts longer and as such doesn’t need replacing as often like cheaper, high street bought garments might. ‘Fast fashion’ and a ‘throw away and replace’ culture is not something we believe is in the best interest of schools, pupils or parents.
“We also know that school-specific uniform instils a sense of pride and belonging amongst students, as well as improving security and pupil-safety outside of the school gates and on the journey to school. We strongly recommend that head teachers take this into account when deciding on their own school’s uniform policy.
“On multiple occasions we advised the Welsh Government about the implications this change in policy could have – all without response. We believe a mistake has been made. Uniform grants for parents have been cut and now it is quality and durable school uniform that will suffer the consequences.
“Schools tend to make the best decision for their pupils, and we believe there is a good harmony between school specific and generic uniform, schools should consult with both students and parents when reviewing the provision of school uniform.
“There is overwhelming support for a balanced uniform from the vast majority of parents. The actual cost of uniform is considerably below the wild estimates made in the media.
“Making these changes to the guidelines statutory will potentially leave schools in a catastrophic situation. If the guidelines are followed to the letter, there would be every kind of garment in our schools, from the cheapest supermarket, to the most expensive high street brands – all in a range of different shades and colours.
“The SA will now be writing to all schools to point out the potential issues they will now face due to these statutory guidelines”