Welsh Government uniform proposals could increase bullying and discrimination according to new research

New research has shown that more than 50% of schools across Wales use uniforms to reduce discrimination and almost a half of schools have a compulsory uniform to prevent bullying.

The findings come as the schoolwear industry has highlighted concerns with new proposals from the Welsh Government which aims to reduce the number of compulsory school branded clothing.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s consultation on school uniform, the Schoolwear Association has argued that the proposals risk undermining equality within schools, drive up prices for parents and make it harder for parents to get the right uniform items they need throughout the year.

Research conducted for the Schoolwear Association has shown that Welsh schools – both primaries and secondaries – recognise the value of school uniforms. It found that:

  • Schools recognise the value of branded items – 60% of schools specify logo’d garments give children a sense of pride with a majority (52%) saying uniform acts a social leveller and 42% saying logo’d uniform prevents bullying.
  • Parents are not demanding change – 87% of schools say parents have not raised concerns over the cost of uniform with them.
  • Schools have already acted – 60% of Welsh schools have already amended their uniform policy or intend to do so in the next 12 months, to take into account the 2019 Statutory Guidance that required schools to ensure their uniform policies were appropriate and affordable. Where schools have made changes to their uniform policy, the majority have already either reduced the number of logo’d garments or made some logo’d garments optional.

In its response to the Welsh Government’s consultation on its proposals, the Schoolwear Association has highlighted that:

  • Removing logos from school uniforms risks undermining the value of uniform leading towards the prospect of a ‘non-uniform’ policy – making it harder to provide a more cohesive environment and for pupils to have a sense of pride in their school
  • The Welsh Government’s proposals are likely to increase social inequality between pupils, with uniform acting as a ‘leveller’ for all pupils – if these proposals were to be introduced, parents are likely to come under pressure to purchase more expensive designer items
  • Parents are likely to need to purchase items more often, potentially driving up costs rather than reducing them – high quality uniforms offered by specialist retailers are typically more durable and long-lasting offering parents the best long-term value, reducing the need for regular repeat purchases
  • Reforms risk making it harder for parents to be able to get the right uniform they need when they need it, throughout the year – ending sole supplier arrangements is likely to main uniform is not in stock when required, particularly for bespoke sizes

Matthew Easter, Chair of the Schoolwear Association said:This new research makes it clear that school leaders across Wales recognise how vital uniform is, acting as a social leveller, promoting pride and belonging among pupils and reducing bullying.

“Branded uniform items offer best long-term value for families, with high quality and durable items reducing the need for clothes to be regularly replaced.

“We strongly support action to help families with the cost of living, and our members are working closely with schools to reduce costs for parents. However, we are concerned by the potential unintended consequences of these proposed changes, particularly as schools across Wales have already acted. This research should encourage the Welsh Government to reconsider their approach.”