Local businesses across Wales are now warning against a proposed change in law around the provisional supply of school uniform, which could impact on small businesses, jobs and families across the country.
Late last year, the Welsh Government launched a consultation on plans to introduce new statutory guidance on school uniform in Wales, a change that could see independent businesses struck hard – the announcement met with concern from industry representative The Schoolwear Association.
The changes to legislation would result in increased competition for those businesses which supply specific uniform to schools as head teachers would be restricted in the choices that they could make to their unifoms.
The impact could be detrimental to local businesses, explains, Sally Stephenson, director of The Pencil Case, a local Schoolwear supplier in Cowbridge:
“Historically, most schools in the local communities across Wales would always work directly with a local school uniform supplier to provide their pupils with a uniform – the suppliers would commit to providing all of the children with a uniform regardless of their size, their needs, or the time of the year. The head teacher and governors would be able to freely decide their own individual uniform policy and how the supply chain should work for their school, but if this new legislation comes in, all of that could be lost.
“There has been an independent business selling Schoolwear in Cowbridge for over fifty years, I took the business over five years ago and we consider ourselves very much part of the community. We have survived and flourished with the custom and support from the local area. We offer a quality and personal service to our customers, and this together with providing local employment, is paramount to us.
“The school uniform we provide is very high quality and excellent value for money. Our shop adds to the High Street and benefits the local economy. We care about the community and we deeply value our customers. I don’t think the same can be said for the big supermarkets.”
It’s not just small local retailers that could suffer from the changes, but thousands of jobs could be at risk at the suppliers which stock the local schoolwear stores.
Mike Williams, Sales Manager for Wales at Winterbottoms Schoolwear said:
“As it currently stands, we supply the small independent stores with school uniform agreed by the schools. If this change comes into Welsh legislation, we could see schools lose the ability to decide what their uniform should be, uniform would lose its “uniformity” as doors would open which would greatly impact on the industry.
“Shops that we supply would face immense pressure and potentially no longer be required. If demand falls in these local shops, due to what seems like a ‘cheaper’ alternative at supermarkets, the retailers that we supply who are local Welshpeople, could lose their jobs. Quality uniform is great value, lasting for many years. Our High Streets and Independent retailers are under enough pressure as it is.
‘We have been supported by industry bodies like The Schoolwear Association that has not only warned against the change on behalf of all the people who’s job hangs in the balance, but has also explained the impact this could have on pupils, especially those from poorer backgrounds. The change would mean that the option to choose could expose poorer children to scrutiny if their uniform isn’t seen to be ‘the same’ as their peers.”
The consultation period on the legislation has now ended, and the Welsh Government is currently reviewing the responses.
For more info about the Schoolwear Association and the consultation, visit: https://schoolwearassociation.co.uk/.