New rules are being introduced to keep the cost of school uniforms down.
The government has told schools to follow new guidance aimed at making uniforms affordable for all families.
While education unions welcomed the move, they said schools already worked to keep uniform costs to a minimum.
“It’s important to remember that a large number of schools already work extremely hard to ensure that their uniform is affordable for families,” James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said.
He added: “That being said, we fully support the move to ensure that uniform remains as affordable as possible in every school. We know that an increasing number of families have come under financial pressure due to the pandemic, so measures that could reduce the cost of uniform are certainly welcome.
The government said schools will be required to take steps to remove “unnecessary branded items” and to allow more options that can be bought on the high-street from next autumn.
Schools will also have to make sure second-hand items are available.
Mark Russell from The Children’s Society said: “Until now, too many parents have had to fork out for expensive branded items rather than cheaper alternatives, while having to cut back on essentials like food or heating.
“So we hope schools are able to start working with the guidance, which should ultimately make it much easier for families to kit out their children for school without breaking the bank.”
Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said schools already follow government guidance over choosing items that can be bought cheaply and to keep compulsory branded items to a minimum.
“This new guidance effectively makes this statutory,” he said.
While he said his union fully supports the guidance, he added: “Schools are acutely aware of the need to keep uniform costs to a minimum, particularly as they often have many students who come from disadvantaged homes. They deal on a daily basis with the impact of the high level of child poverty the government has failed to address.”
Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, said: “School uniform provides a sense of identity and community for children and young people, and should be a real source of pride. But it must never be a burden for parents or a barrier to pupils accessing education.
“This new binding guidance will help to make uniforms far more affordable for families by driving costs down as we work hard to level up the country.”