The Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority has concluded its study of the market for school uniforms in Jersey and has made three recommendations which it believes will benefit consumers.
School uniforms and school uniform policies are common practice across education both in Jersey, the UK and elsewhere. While requirements and uniform policies tend to differ between schools on-island, school uniform is clearly a strong feature of Jersey schools.
The study finds that a high proportion of school wear items are branded and/or compulsory; it is not uncommon for the number of such items to be greater than 40% of the total number of listed school uniform items. The Authority considers this represents an additional consumer expense, when compared to fewer branded items, or non-branded (generic) school wear items.
Moreover, the Authority’s review of current market practice relative to its previous guidance for this market (in 2011) indicates that more could be done to improve the competitive process. There is a role for schools, in the development and management of school uniform policies; and suppliers in being subjected to more rigorous processes when competing for consumer demand.
The Authority has therefore issued recommendations aimed to reframe the market, improve competitive discipline, and help ensure consumers (parents, guardians and pupils) are getting a good deal. The Authority will continue to work with Government and other stakeholders to implement the recommendations.
The main recommendations are:
- The Government of Jersey should consider policy in other places, including the UK
- Schools should conduct regular reviews of all contracts and supply arrangements for uniforms
- The JCRA should develop more specific guidance on the design and operation of competitive tenders for school uniforms
Peter Hetherington, Chief Economist at the Authority said: “It is clear the market for school uniforms in Jersey is a sizeable one and our recommendations will improve the market for the benefit of consumers. We would like to thank all stakeholders that have contributed to the study. Further work will be progressed this year, with the recommendations to take effect at the start of the new academic year in September 2024.”
Minister for Children and Education, Deputy Inna Gardiner, said: “School uniforms provide pupils with a sense of community and identity and act as a social equaliser; they also make it easier for parents to get their children ready for school.
“However, I’ve been concerned about cost and committed to reducing it since coming into office last year. I have spoken with parents who are concerned about the cost of school uniforms, especially with the cost of living rising. I have raised their feedback with Headteachers at my regular meetings with them.
“Schools are already taking steps to make uniforms more affordable: many have re-selling communities for second hand uniforms, I welcome the finding that 90% of schools are already doing second hand sales.
“This is welcomed by many parents, but it doesn’t address the market as a whole. It’s clear from this report that there is more that individual schools can do to ensure they are offering parents more choice and flexibility. At the same time, it shows that we need to put in place clearer guidance to support schools.
“I have written to all headteachers today to ask for their support and suggestions in how we can develop guidance to make sure that school uniforms are competitively priced. I’d like to thank the JCRA for this study, which gives us a good factual background that we can build on.”