UK Education Minister Urges Schools to Cut Uniform Costs

November 7, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. hard pressed [hahrd-prest] (adj.) – facing or experiencing financial difficulty
ExampleHard pressed families often have difficulties paying for their children’s tuition.

2. tender [TEN-der] (n.) – a written offer to buy something at a specific price
Example: Several tenders were submitted before they closed the business deal.

3. ensure [en-SHOO R, -SHUR] (v.) – to secure something
Example: The new law will ensure that families won’t have to spend more on their children’s school expenses.

4. branded [BRAN-did] (adj.) – carrying a trademark
Example: Her clothes and bags are branded; therefore, all of them are expensive.

5. affordable [uh-FAWR-duh-buh l] (adj.) – low-cost or low in price
Example: Some people buy clothes on sale because they are more affordable.


Read the text below.
UK Education Minister David Laws urged schools to avoid overpriced uniforms in order to cut the cost paid by parents.

Laws said that although uniforms are vital to a school’s pride and identity, parents should not be forced to spend more than what’s necessary. He added that the cost of school uniforms in Europe nowadays is unnecessarily high, which especially affects hard pressed parents. 

Having a single uniform supplier prevents parents from purchasing a uniform with a lower price. Hence, the ministry will issue new instructions to stop schools from using exclusive single-supplier contracts, unless tenders are processed regularly. Doing so may ensure that uniform suppliers would provide value for money.

Although creating a new law about this matter is not needed, the ministry suggests that branding be minimized and frequent changes in the uniform’s specifications be avoided. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) also found that parents being forced to buy from branded suppliers spend a total of £52 million each year.

However, UK Prime Minister David Cameron stressed that schools should be free to set their own uniform policies. The prime minister also said that this measure may weaken the country’s free school program.

Similarly, the general secretary of the largest teachers’ union in the UK stated that the announcement on making school uniforms affordable may just be ignored, just like the announcement of OFT last year. Legal guidance should be provided to address this issue instead of giving just a weak advice, the general secretary added.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Why is it important to have guidelines on selling school uniforms? Please explain your answer.
·         Do you think this kind of measure will be effective in cutting the cost of school uniforms? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What do you think are the things that schools should spend its budget on? Please explain your answer.
·         In your opinion, how else can schools cut expenses? Please explain briefly.


November 7, 2013