Education: School Uniform Working Group minutes - August 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 21 August 2023.

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed the members to the group and noted apologies.

Minutes and actions from the previous meeting

The minutes from the previous meeting on 20 June, were circulated for comment prior to the meeting. Minor comments were received by correspondence and the minute was updated and recirculated. The group indicated they were content for the minute to be published on the Scottish Government (SG) website.
The chair provided an update on the actions from the previous meeting. Updates are noted in the action log.

Draft Guidance - points for discussion

The chair circulated a copy of the draft guidance among members of the working group ahead of this meeting.  Comments on the draft guidance were invited by the chair. The group had a broad discussion, the following key points were raised:

Structure and Introduction

  • It was noted that the guidance should be concise, and the language should be simple and user friendly
  • It was suggested that the purpose and who the guidance is for could be clearer. It was suggested that the introduction section could be shortened with a separate section following it to set out the purpose of the guidance
  • Easy-read versions of the guidance will be developed for children and young people, and parents and carers. A sub-group will be established to support this
  • To what extent the content of the guidance will change when it becomes statutory. The chair noted she did not expect any major changes to the content and the guidance will be drafted in a way which will allow it to become statutory without major amendments

Affordability and Sustainability

  • It was noted that there is a tension between affordable and sustainable approaches. The group discussed how best to reflect a balanced approach within the guidance
  • Suggestions were made about how to restructure the guidance to better link the affordability and sustainability sections
  • The group noted that there are good examples of second-hand and pre-loved initiatives that could be included as examples of good practice in the guidance
  • It was noted that guidance in England mandated schools to offer second-hand options to families. The Chair indicated that there are no plans to take a similar approach in Scotland, however, the group noted that the guidance provides an opportunity to promote pre-loved uniform and other initiatives, both in schools and the wider community
  • The group noted that a cultural shift was necessary to fully address and implement a sustainable and affordable approach. The group noted that schools had the opportunity to influence behaviour through their uniform and clothing policies. This could include reducing the number of items required, considering alternatives to branded items, such as sew-on badges and clearly communicating expectations with pupils, parents and carers
  • The group noted that parents and carers can sometimes feel pressure to send their children to school in brand-new clothes at the start of every term and they considered that the guidance should be strengthened to mitigate this. This could include greater emphasis on pre-loved initiatives, being clearer that branded items should not be compulsory and the inclusion of blazers as an optional item, should be carefully considered
  • The group noted that it was helpful that the guidance considered the other costs associated with uniform and clothing, for example, energy cost of washing/drying uniforms
  • The group noted that options for pre-loved uniform were more limited in smaller or rural schools. It is important that the guidance provides schools flexibility to develop a policy which reflects the needs of their pupils and their families

Equality and Inclusion

  • The group noted that these sections are key. However, the guidance must reflect throughout that the needs and circumstances of all children and young people are considered in uniform and clothing polices
  • The guidance should highlight comfort particularly for children and young people with additional support needs or sensory needs to ensure that uniforms do not act as a barrier to learning
  • It was noted that there are a range of reasons why children may not wear uniform and these should be addressed in an appropriate way
  • Exclusion should not be used as a measure to tackle non-wearing of uniform
  • The section on equalities and inclusion would be a useful place to draw out the themes from the engagement with children carried out by the Children’s Parliament

Physical Education

  • Tracy Johnson from Education Scotland set out some of the key issues that will be included in this section to support positive and safe participation for pupils
  • It was noted that this section should align to the other sections of the guidance and could include practical suggestions, such as wearing PE clothes on PE days to reduce the number of items required

Next Steps

The group were asked to continue to send comments to the Chair on the current draft of the guidance and provide suggestions or wording for the content of the equality and inclusion sections. The focus of the next meeting on 12 September, will be on these sections and the Chair will share a further draft of the guidance for discussion.

Attendees and apologies

  • Deborah Lynch, Scottish Government (chair)
  • Andrene Bamford, Educational Institute of Scotland
  • Maxine Booth, Association of Directors of Education Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Heads and Deputes Scotland
  • Izzie Eriksen, ApparelXchange
  • Linda Gibson, NASUWT
  • Alison Herbert, Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • Tracy Johnston, Education Scotland
  • Mary Cane, YoungScot
  • Sara McFarlane, Connect
  • Leanne McGuire, National Parent Forum Scotland
  • Kirsty McNeill, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
  • Kelly Munro, Carers’ Trust
  • Joanna Panese, Scottish Autism
  • Stuart Pescodd, Scottish Government
  • Sara Spencer, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland
  • Mark Stevenson, Schoolwear Association
  • Matthew Sweeny, COSLA
  • Douglas Forrester, Scottish Government (secretariat)


  • Julie O’Byrne, Cool School Uniforms
  • Linda O’Neill, CELCIS
  • Carol Thorpe, EIS
  • Fiona McHardy, Poverty Alliance
Back to top