Almost three-quarters of state schools place restrictions on where school uniforms can be bought, meaning parents may be paying more than they need to, according to a report.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found that parents unable to shop around are paying as much as #163;5-10 too much for many uniform items. The report pointed out that even if items are limited to a small number of retailers, it is possible for parents to benefit from competition.
The most common reason given by schools for using a single retailer was to ensure consistency of appearance. For those that restricted items to the school itself, the reason given was convenience for parents.
But the OFT argued that consistency can be achieved by setting out colour and style requirements in more detail and recommended that schools consider whether their current arrangements are in the best interests of parents.
Proportion of schools imposing restrictions on uniforms
No limit on availability 26%
Single retailer 19%
School shop 29%
Restricted number of retailers 26%.