Reviewing your school uniform policy

Written by: Ciara Lamb | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

New statutory rules on school uniform require schools to review their uniform policies, keep branding to a minimum, and ensure best value for money. Ciara Lamb advises how to develop a policy in line with the new guidance

The new statutory guidance on the cost of school uniform (DfE, 2021; see also Headteacher Update, 2021) requires you to make sure your uniform costs are reasonable and secure best value for money for parents and carers.

Schools are now required to review their uniform policies in light of the new guidance. How can we do this in line with the new guidance?

Work with governors

If you are in a maintained school, your governing board is responsible for deciding whether you need a policy and, if so, what it should be. However, in reality, governors or trustees are likely to work with you to make these decisions and then delegate the writing and updating of the policy to you.

If you are in a trust, how involved you are in the process will depend on how your trust is run. Speak to your trust leaders to find out where they need your input. Your trust may take ownership over tendering the contract with the uniform supplier, making sure that best value for money is secured and meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2010. The areas where a trust is more likely to need your input might be around the context of your school and pupils (including understanding current costs), the views of parents/carers and pupils, and the enforcement of your existing policy.

Calculate average uniform costs

The next thing to consider is the total cost implications of your existing policy and whether the total cost differs for certain pupil groups. Once you have done this, you can use your assessment to help you complete an audit...

Running an audit

You need to identify whether you need to make any changes. Running an audit will help you to think about your existing policy, document your decisions and spot where you may need to make changes. There are no right answers to the questions in an audit. Instead, you will need to make these decisions based on your school’s context, considering factors such as:

  • Socio-economic status of your school community.
  • Pupil demographics of your school.
  • Uniform of neighbouring schools or schools in your trust.
  • Enforcement of your existing policy.
  • Views of your school community.

However, remember that a school uniform should always represent value for money and be affordable for all pupils.

A note on the Equality Act 2010: this Act does not go into specifics about what you can and cannot do around uniform and has not yet been fully tested in the courts in this context. This means that there’s no definitive answer right now on what you can/can’t include in your uniform policy, but there could be in the future if a discrimination claim tests the law.

Consult parents and pupils

When developing a uniform policy or making changes, you should consult parents/carers and pupils. If you did not consult them when you developed your policy, you will need to do this now.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that this is only the minimum expectation. The non-statutory guidance on school uniform (DfE, 2013) also encourages you to consult with parents and pupils on other aspects of your uniform policy if you are making significant changes to it.

We recommend using a survey (rather than running focus groups, for example) to consult with parents and carers after you have reviewed your policy and come up with a set of recommended changes. This is because changes to your uniform policy are likely to be less controversial than other policies you would run a consultation on (such as relationships and sex education, or behaviour).

Having said this, if the findings from the survey do indicate that there are more complex issues you need to explore, you may want to run in-person sessions.

Send a letter to parents to set out the changes you want to make to your policy, and why, and to invite parental feedback.

Most pupils may not have much – if anything – to say about the cost of uniform. Instead, focus your questions for pupils on how well the uniform works for them. For example, whether the uniform is comfortable and appropriate, if there are aspects of the uniform policy they struggle to follow (and if so, why), or what they would change about the uniform (if anything).

Depending on the age of your pupils, you may want to consult with them by asking them to complete a questionnaire, talking to groups of pupils or talking to the school council (or equivalent).

Draft policy: Governor questions

For maintained schools, your governors will ask you questions when reviewing your policy. Below you will find some examples of the kinds of questions they may ask. You can use the evidence from your cost analysis, policy audit, and consultations to help you answer these.

Value for money

  • What steps have we taken to secure the best value for money for parents? What steps have we taken to limit the number and cost of branded items?
  • For the branded items we have, why do these need to be branded?
  • How do we know the cost of our uniform is reasonable for parents?
  • When are we due to next retender our uniform contract? How does the tendering process ensure value for money?
  • What steps have we taken to limit the variation in policies between year/class/house groups?
  • If you have made any significant changes to your policy, what will be the financial impact of these changes on parents?


  • How have we made sure our policy does not discriminate based on sex, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy, race, religion or belief?

Community views

  • How have we reflected parents’ views in our policy?
  • How have we reflected pupils’ views in our policy?
  • How are we communicating any changes we have made to parents?
  • Were there any aspects of our existing policy that were cause for concern?
  • How have we addressed these in the updated policy?

Communicate the changes

Once your governing board has approved the changes to your uniform policy, let parents and carers know about the changes. You might want to use multiple methods of communication for this. For example, post parents a letter (with a copy of the policy), put a notice on your school website and social media pages, and you could also send copies home with the pupils. 

  • Ciara Lamb is a specialist content editor at The Key, a provider intelligence and resources for education leaders. The advice here is taken from The Key’s resource How to review your school uniform policy, which includes a downloadable school uniform policy audit. The Key created this resource with its associate education expert Julia Skinner and the Schoolwear Association. Visit

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