School Uniform Monopoly/Cartels

in Campaigns corner
16 replies 4.3K views

My first post on here, so please be gentle!

I am writing for advice as I am rather concerned about the nature of tie ups between schools/academys/education trusts and uniform suppliers.

Clearly the value way of shopping for uniform is via a supermarket, where trousers can be purchased for between £3.50 and £6, with other items being a similar low price. These template style items are fanastic value and of great help to parents.

Unfortunately my childrens school has 'a chosen supplier'. As at last year, they provided sweatshirts, polo shirts and PE kit with the school logo embroidered on. Clearly it was not possible to buy these items from the supermarket - and so we were beholden to the inflated costs charged by the supplier. Example prices are £11 for a polo shirt and £18 for a sweater.

These costs mount up when buying several items (for more than one child).

I swallowed these costs, as I was very happy to get my kids into the school and thankful that they did not have to wear blazers etc. I also managed to cut costs by purchasing trousers from the supermarket.

Unfortunately this loophole has now been closed!

The school dictated late last term that pupils were now to buy trousers from the approved outlet. These trousers retail at a £10.50 - £16.50.

In all honesty, I do not struggle for money. I have a good job and the means to pay for these. However a few things about this do not sit well with me:

1. I am being held to ransom.

2. I question the legality of such tie ups between schools and private business.

3. I worry for low income households facing these increased costs.

There has been some disquiet amongst parents, however any sort of co-ordinated action against this has not been possible. I believe alot, like me, have generally been to busy. I would however like some advice on how legal this is - and to see if it is possible to raise this an issue on a broader, national basis.

In the next couple of posts I will submit some of the letters from the school.


  • Initial letter sent on 15 Jun:


    15th June 2018

    Dear Parent(s)/Carer(s),

    Changes to School Uniform

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to our recent uniform survey and came along to our Parent Evening to discuss this further. We had over 250 responses to the survey, which was sent to all parents and carers to complete with your son(s)/daughter(s).

    The feedback you have given was very helpful and we have taken time to carefully consider the wide range of viewpoints from parents and students to inform our decisions moving forward.

    We realise that changing the uniform policy to now include an approved trouser may, for some parents and students, feel challenging. It is also clear that for some parents, this is your preference.

    Nationally and within the South Gloucestershire area, it is not a new position for schools to specify a full uniform range and the changes outlined below have been carefully thought out. Essentially, once parents and students are used to this, we feel it will remove any inconsistencies. We would like to thank you in advance for your support.

    Trousers From September 2018, all Secondary phase students will be required to wear trousers from the approved range which will be stocked at Intially Yours, Hambrook. These trousers are a high quality item and will have a logo on them to distinguish from non-school uniform trousers. The trousers for both boys and girls will be available in a slim fit or regular fit style. The uniform policy, which will be updated, will include the requirement to wear these trousers without any alteration being made to them, such as having them taken in to become a slimmer fit down the leg.

    School short We will introduce a school uni-sex Bermuda short from September 2018. Again, this will have a logo on. Shorts will be able to be worn all year round.

    We have decided to not introduce a school skirt as we feel that all students will have two options available to them and so school skirts will no longer form part of the secondary uniform and therefore cannot be worn. The new trouser and short will be available for parents to buy from July 16th and we are pleased to also share that Intially Yours have offered a 10% discount for each pair of trousers if two or more pairs are purchased before 5th August. After this date, the normal price will apply.

    If you are in receipt of Free School Meals and are on a low household income and feel you may be eligible for some support with the purchase of uniform, please refer to our Charging and Remissions Policy on our website as you may be eligible for financial support.

    Yours faithfully,

    Steve Moir
  • 26 June 2018

    Dear Parents and Carers,
    Having received some feedback and queries after we issued our letter last week about the changes to school uniform for September, we thought it would be useful to provide some additional detail and clarify the rationale behind the decision.
    Context of proposed uniform changes at Bradley Stoke Community School
    The rationale for the decision about uniform changes is primarily to reduce the variance within the uniform (and trousers in particular) so that staff can focus on learning rather than negative conversations with students about what they are wearing. Currently, we are spending a significant amount of time, on a daily basis, addressing uniform issues rather than focusing on learning. Clothing retailers now produce a wide range of plain black trousers that fit within the ‘tailored trouser’ definition and yet can be very different styles. Being able to define the difference between these various trousers is increasingly difficult, leads to inconsistency and to students and parents/carers being confused, at best, and feeling unfairly treated at worst. The number of parents and carers who have raised concerns about trousers worn by other students whilst their own child has been challenged about their trousers has risen. We have been dealing with this for the 3 years that I have been Headteacher at Bradley Stoke and it is not getting any better or easier. More importantly, it takes up a significant amount of staff time and can create a negative start to the school day for students and staff.
    Furthermore, South Gloucestershire is now the lowest funded of 152 Local Authorities in England which means that our staffing levels have had to reduce further and we must ensure more than ever before that our staff resources are focused on supporting learning rather than dealing with other issues such as uniform. This is one reason we outsourced our uniform supply and sales to Initially Yours a few years ago to replace arrangements being managed at our cost in school. Moreover, Initially Yours now produce a wealth of different plain black trousers that fit within the ‘tailored trouser’ definition, but with a range of options for all body types. This seems to us to be a simple solution for all involved. We would also like to clarify that the school receives no financial benefit or commission whatsoever from any uniform sales.
    We fully understand that for many individual students and families this is not an issue as they wear appropriate uniform every day without complaint. We are also well aware from conversations with some parents and carers that they have difficult discussions and confrontations at home about the style of trousers that students want to wear. We hope that the decision to use only one supplier of trousers should help with this.
    We had previously stated that skirts would not be allowed to be worn in school as there is a shorts option for students to wear. Having listened to parent feedback, we will now offer a skirt option for students to wear. We are in the process of identifying a suitable skirt which will also have the logo embroidered on it and we will update parents as soon as this is available.

    We have included the results of the uniform consultation below as some parents/carers have requested them. We are not obliged to consult but we were keen to find out what parents and carers thought even though we knew it was likely that the majority of parents/carers who responded would not be in favour of the changes. It is normal for more responses to come from those who do not agree and likely that the majority who did not respond are either supportive of the changes or feel less strongly about them than those who responded.
    The main focus for most feedback was cost. We fully appreciate that for many parents/carers, the uniform changes represent an additional cost. We have always endeavoured to keep our uniform simple and low cost by not having items such as a blazer or tie. If you are concerned about being able to afford your son/daughter’s uniform please do get in touch with us so that we can support you if at all possible.
    The consultation
     The survey was sent to every family in the primary and secondary phase and we had 254 responses from parents/carers, 3 from governors and 12 additional responses following the decision to move to approved trousers. This represents approximately 25% of those who could have responded.  The invitation to complete the survey, also included an invitation to register to attend a parent/carer uniform event.  Approximately 127 people either agreed or were neutral about the proposals. The remaining 127 parents opposed the changes. We have made the assumption that the remaining 75% of families who did not respond do not feel strongly enough about the proposals to voice an opinion either way.  In terms of pricing, 152 parents who responded currently pay £10-£20 for their child's school trousers; 76 responded as paying less than £10; and 26 responded as paying more than £20. The cost of the Initially Yours trousers is between £16.50 and £19.50.  The uniform evening event was open to all parents/carers and we ensured that concerns about sizing and pricing, which had come through the survey responses were discussed. A representative from Initially Yours was at this event and was able to directly answer queries and concerns that were raised and parents/carers who attended were able to look at the samples of the trousers.
    We hope that the information above is useful and provides greater clarity. It is our desire to focus more of our time and energy on building on the incredibly positive Ofsted inspection report that we were able to share with our school community last week. We want to provide the best possible educational experience for all students at Bradley Stoke Community School. Thank you in anticipation of your support as we implement the new uniform expectations for the start of the new school year in September.
    Yours sincerely,

    Steve Moir Headteacher
  • BSCS/303

    11th July 2018

    Dear Parent(s)/Carer(s),

    Following feedback from some parents and students voicing concern about proposed uniform changes, extensive discussion took place with Bradley Stoke Community School’s Local Governing Committee at its meeting last week. This letter is to confirm that the changes to uniform as outlined in previous letters are to be implemented from September. Whilst we understand and sympathise with some of the concerns raised, Governors were unanimously in support of the decision to move to one supplier of trousers for uniform for the reasons and rationale already set out in the last letter to parents and carers. These expectations will be for all students in Years 7-11.

    As stated in the previous letter, we have re-considered the decision about skirts as part of the uniform. Again, this was discussed with Governors and some students and we have agreed a pleated skirt as part of the uniform offer available from Initially Yours. The skirt is now available to try on in the shop and orders can then be placed for delivery ready for the start of Term 1. The skirt is priced between £15.50 and £19.50 depending on the size ordered. Orders for skirts and trousers will need to be placed by 5th August in order to take delivery in time for the start of September.

    As part of our discussions with students we have become even more acutely aware of the anxiety that some of our students have about their body shape and self-image. This is clearly more than just about school trousers and although we already include some sessions about this issue within our PSHE programme we would like to offer further support. We have asked a group of our students to work with us and some external experts to develop this programme together to support their peers and to provide some expert input for this challenging issue for our young people.

    As ever, we will be monitoring the students' uniform in September and ensuring that it is in line with published expectations. For students who fail to wear the correct uniform in September we will, of course, contact parents and carers as these students will be placed in the Isolation Room and will have work provided for them under the supervision of the Leadership Team and the Student Support Team if they are not conforming to expectations about uniform. We hope that this will not be necessary but need parents, carers and students to be clear what the expectation is and what the consequences will be for those who fail to meet them.

    We realise that some parents and carers will remain dissatisfied with this change to the uniform policy. However, we have spent a considerable amount of time consulting and communicating with stakeholders about the changes and this letter is to confirm that this is the final position for the school.

    Thank you in anticipation of your support in this matter and for ensuring that your son/daughter is wearing correct uniform for the start of the school year in September so that we can focus on learning and getting the new school year off to a positive and purposeful start.

    Yours faithfully,

    Steve Moir Phil Haslett Dave Baker Headteacher Chair of Governors CEO, Olympus Academy Trust
  • Extract from letter dated 30 Aug:

    Uniform - please ensure that school uniform conforms to the dress code. This obviously includes the new trousers and students who do not have the appropriate trousers, as previously indicated, will be placed in the Isolation Room. We would be keen to avoid using this sanction and appreciate your support with this.
  • A few further concerns:

    a. I was not aware of the survey (it went into my spam box). Which is mysterious considering I receive all other school correspondence with no issues!
    b. The survey is flawed due to relatively low take up.
    c. The interpretation of the survey data is questionable.
    d. Consultation period has been limited - and it appears the board of governors/trust executive have taken decisions (of self interest?) in lieu of this.
  • I also hasten to add that it is not the school logo on the trousers. It appears to be a company logo. I fail to see how this can be done, when kids are not allowed to wear any other corporate/fashion logos.
  • pjcox2005pjcox2005 Forumite
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    I get the frustration with one place to buy and the added expense, but whilst this is not something you want to hear it sounds like the school have treated this with quite a lot of consideration.

    The survey going into your junk mail is not mysterious, given the number of people who did manage to respond.

    There sounds like they see genuine issues on a day to day basis for kids who have the "wrong" uniform. So as with holidays in term time, I'd be accepting of that decision knowing that whilst it may not be reflective of me as a sensible parent, it helps support teachers in a difficult job and potentially makes the life easier of a number of kids currently struggling.

    My girls aren't old enough yet, but the fact that they notice and are proactively trying to do something about body image which seems to be a huge issue is also a credit to them.

    The only bit I would suggest is trying to push for a uniform fund so that for those families who may not be able to afford the cost, they can anonymously (at least only one person in the school) ask for assistance.
  • pjcox2005pjcox2005 Forumite
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    pokaplaya wrote: »
    A few further concerns:

    a. I was not aware of the survey (it went into my spam box). Which is mysterious considering I receive all other school correspondence with no issues!
    b. The survey is flawed due to relatively low take up.
    c. The interpretation of the survey data is questionable.
    d. Consultation period has been limited - and it appears the board of governors/trust executive have taken decisions (of self interest?) in lieu of this.

    On these points specifically, all parents had the chance to complete the survey, the level of data collected is all they have to interpret and there isn't much point doing an extend consultation period if parents are saying they have an issue.

    If anything their letters suggest they did revise some points which were put forward to them so they've shown some flexibility.
  • I agree it is all a load of bull.
    Luckily out of all the uniform that has a school logo on that my son required this year, he only needed a new blazer and new rugby shirt. This cost me £60, I have just done the uniform shop in ASDA for his trousers, shirts and shoes and my daughters full uniform (except school jumper with logo £10) and all in all it cost £106.

    Why do they need a specific rugby shirt? Unless they are on the schools rugby team. Why do they have to have football boots, if they only play football when they are made to in PE? I think schools should have a simplified uniform policy and then if students are representing the school at sports then have a specific strip for those students, instead of a blanket approach.

    The whole uniform thing is a scam, if I was to buy all of my sons uniform from the official supplier it would cost me £214.50 and that doesn't include shoes, trainers and football boots! Maybe schools should focus on teaching instead of trouser watching!
  • Owain_MoneysaverOwain_Moneysaver Forumite
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    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper
    Freedom of Information Act requests to the school for details of commercial arrangements between them and the uniform supplier may be interesting.

    If they refuse to respond on grounds of commercial sensitivity you can be fairly sure there is a commercial arrangement ...

    Also a check of Companies House for the names of directors/officers of the uniform supplier will show if there is anyone with a name similar to anyone on the board of governers, council, etc ... sneaky?
    A kind word lasts a minute, a skelped erse is sair for a day.
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