You may remember that, early this year, Welsh government ran a consultation inviting opinions about school uniform policy. We created a survey and invited parents in Wales to give us their thoughts. In total, 186 of you took a few minutes to send us your feedback so that we could present genuine parent voice to government on this subject of high importance to parents. You can see a summary of our response in Parents in Wales give us their views on school uniform policy.
Parents’ concerns over black overcoats
When responding to our survey, parents raised the following worries about current requirements for overcoats, which we reported back to government.
- Cost. One parent said that the school required black winter overcoats, which had an adverse impact upon her family’s budget. “I’m a single mother with 3 children and have always chosen distinctive coats so I can spot them easily when out playing/on holidays. I don’t see why I should be made to buy extra clothing to satisfy a colour rule. The colour of my child’s coat will have no impact on their education!”
- Safety. We said that this was a worry for many parents when their child is required to wear a dark-coloured overcoat. It is harder for drivers to see children crossing the road in darker and more difficult conditions, making accidents more likely than if the child was wearing brightly-coloured clothing.
How the government has responded
See the following sections of the guidance document, which instructs schools to accommodate parental concerns about uniform.
- 3.7 Governing bodies should be flexible in their requirements regarding coats worn between home and school. Specifying a particular colour or style may result in parents having to buy two coats for their child: one for school and one for wear at other times.
- 3.8 School uniforms are often quite dark making it difficult for children to be seen by drivers especially during the winter months. Governing bodies should consider the benefits of including light colours and/or reflective or high-visibility materials such as removable reflective strips as part of their school uniform policy to ensure that children are able to walk and cycle safely to school.
Parent voice heard at government level
The changes to the statutory guidance for school governing bodies on school uniform and appearance policies shows that parental concerns have been heard and addressed at decision-making level, and that parents can and do have their say in education issues that matter to them. We are delighted that Welsh government has made these policy changes in response to parent voice. The result shows the impact parents can make at the highest level when parent voice is listened to and heeded.
What else is changing?
Overall, the uniform policy has been updated to ensure that:
- School governing bodies should have regard to the affordability, access and availability of uniform items when setting their school uniform and appearance policy.
- Schools’ uniform policies should not dictate different items of clothing on the basis of sex/gender.
- School governing bodies should have a sensible, flexible approach to uniform items to account for extreme weather conditions.
We are delighted to see the importance of parental engagement reflected in section 1:1, "The Welsh Government strongly encourages all governing bodies to have a school uniform policy after consultation with parents, pupils and relevant local or faith communities." Consideration is also given to keeping costs down for parents. Section 4.2 says, “When considering the introduction of new school uniform and appearance policies or changes to existing policies, governing bodies should consult with current pupils and parents/carers and prospective pupils and parents/carers, especially as change could give rise to additional costs.”
What happens next?
The guidance comes into effect from 1st September 2019, in time for the autumn when your child starts the new academic year. It has been written to advise governing bodies and head teachers about all aspects of their school uniform and appearance policy. Look out for updates from your child’s school. Education Minister Kirsty Williams said, “A school’s uniform and appearance policy will remain the responsibility of the governing body, and I strongly encourage schools to have one in place as it has many benefits”.
Parents looking to continue to have more of a say in decision-making processes should register for our Parent Insight Panel. Receive surveys on education issues that matter to parents directly to your inbox, so you can help influence the debate and shape policy for schools.