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17 September 2013 | Marino Donati
Schools should stop using single suppliers for school uniform contracts to give parents better value for money, the government has said.
At the Liberal Democrat conference, schools minister David Laws announced new guidance to help schools place more emphasis on value for money when choosing new uniforms.
He said single supplier contracts stopped parents shopping around for the best deal, and urged schools to follow the new guidance issued by the Department for Education.
Schools should avoid exclusive single supplier contracts except when regular tendering competitions are run, where more than one supplier can compete for the contract, the guidance says.
There should be no “cash back” arrangements, and schools should not insist that pupils wear expensive uniform items, or make changes to uniforms frequently. Schools should also try to use uniform items that can be bought from supermarkets or “value” retailers, with compulsory branded items kept to a minimum.
Laws said the non-statutory guidance was aimed at helping schools cut costs for parents at a time when family budgets are being squeezed.
“We will send a strong signal to schools that it is vital to secure value for money for parents before changing or introducing new school uniforms,” he said.
"Parents need to be able to shop around to find the best deal. I want to see fewer schools using single suppliers and branded items, which keep costs unnecessarily high.”
Three quarters of schools restricted where uniforms could be bought, according to an Office of Fair Trading investigation last year.
Parents spend £52 million a year more than if they bought from lower priced retailers, it said.