Parents in Wales give us their views on school uniform policy ahead of changes

10/04/19

A big thank you to the parents in Wales who took our survey on school uniform policy so that we could use your feedback to present evidence of parent voice to government on this important issue.

In total, 186 parents completed our short questionnaire, and many offered great ideas and shared concerns that they have about the school uniform policy at their child's school. We shared representative quotations and picked out our respondents' common themes when replying to government.

What was the survey about?

Welsh Government released draft guidance for school governing bodies on school uniform and appearance policies, and invited feedback on the ideas they had put forward. The consultation covered "affordability, access and availability of school uniforms, gender-neutral uniforms and school uniform items for extreme weather conditions".

What did parents tell us?

Key statistics that we found were:

Cost

School uniform cost is a bigger concern for parents of secondary rather than primary-school children

Understandably, the consideration is greater for parents of more than one child

  • 31% of parents selected the range 8-10 (where ‘1’ was ‘easily affordable’ and ‘10’ was ‘very expensive’), indicating nearly a third of respondents struggle to afford uniform
  • 82% approve of applying school logos to generic items of clothing to reduce costs to parents
  • 29% said that there is a second-hand uniform 'swap-shop' operating in their child's school
  • Only 4% of those who said their school operated a swap-shop said that the initiative was not valued by parents
  • The most common responses to what parents consider ‘unnecessary’ items of uniform were school blazer (nominated by 42% of those who answered the question), PE kits in school colours (26%) and polo shirts with school logo
  • Many parents mentioned that they could only purchase uniform from one supplier, where an absence of competition drives up costs and drives down quality.

Adapting uniform during periods of extreme weather

Many schools already make concessions for pupil comfort by relaxing uniform policy regulations during periods of extreme heat or cold.

  • 69% of parents said that pupils could adapt uniform in extreme temperatures, but 15% said not
  • 67% approved of the measures to increase pupil comfort, where only 3% opposed
  • Some parents said they would rather the flexible approach be limited to a primary school setting.

Availability of school uniform policy

Most schools have a copy of their policies on the website. Often, parents can request a copy from the school office, especially where they may not have ready internet access at home. When we asked parents for this survey, we found that:

  • 74% said that the school uniform policy was readily available, such as on the school website, but 12% said that it was not.

Parents having a say on school uniform policy

We were especially concerned that a very low proportion of parents said that they had been consulted by school decision-makers about uniform policy.

  • 40% said that the governing body does not regularly consult parents about uniform policy. 14% agreed that they were regularly consulted, but 43% did not know
  • 40% of parents said they would like to be consulted on uniform every school year, and only 6% indicated that they did not wish to be consulted.

Parents support the proposed changes

We asked parents if they agree with the government’s proposals to ensure that school uniform policies have regard to:

  • Affordability
  • Not dictating different items of clothing on the basis of sex/gender
  • Flexibility during extreme weather conditions.

We found that:

  • 88% of respondents were favourably disposed
  • 6% opposed the changes, and a further 6% were unsure.

One parent suggested that, “any changes should be phased in so as not to cause further expense to parents”.

Safety

A shared parental concern was that wintertime overcoats are required to be black or a dark colour. Parents expressed that this causes visibility issues when their child is travelling home, as they can be less-easily spotted by drivers. Schools and parents must work together to ensure uniform policies have due regard for child safety without incurring parents additional costs.

Parentkind’s suggestions to Welsh government

After analysing all of the data and testimony from individual parents, we reminded the government that:

  • Uniform is an issue that directly impacts upon parents, and they should therefore have a say on uniform policy, which should be set by schools in consultation with their parent community
  • Uniform policy should be regularly checked to ensure that it is still meeting the needs of parents
  • There is a gap between parents wanting to be consulted and share their ideas on uniform policy, and schools actually engaging with their parent communities on this issue
  • Parents must be informed by school when there are any changes to uniform policy, including a flexible approach during extreme weather, with sensitivity around the potential that parents may incur additional costs.

We recommended that the government considers introducing a mandatory consultative parent body to every school that can liaise directly with the school’s senior leadership team. This is the best way for parent voice to be heard on this issue at school level, and an ideal approach for all issues affecting a school’s parent community.

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