Schoolwear Association Update
CWB catches up with the SA as it marks its 10th anniversary.
By Laura Turner
12 August 2016
CWB gets the latest news from the Schoolwear Association (SA), a not-for-profit body that represents all those involved in the supply of school-specific uniform. Now in its 10th year, the SA has become the voice of its industry and a force for fair and ethical trading. Here, CWB provides a run-down of the Association’s current agenda, including the formation of new executive teams, the launch of guidelines for schools to clarify specifying and sourcing uniform, continued work on the Every Child is Worth It campaign and the plans for October’s Schoolwear Show and this year’s SA fundraiser.
The Schoolwear Association (SA) was founded in late 2006 as a trade body for the school-specific uniform sector. It represents the interests of more than 200 specialists including retailers, suppliers, wholesalers, fabric manufacturers and garment decorators. Together, its members clothe millions of school children and supply products to 75 per cent of the UK’s schools and academies.
The Association’s founding was born out of necessity: to provide a common voice for the industry, particularly for press and bodies who influence its market. The SA Executive gives its time voluntarily in the interests of the industry, working within teams to maximise growth opportunities within the sector. The SA chair is rotated, the role currently held by David Burgess of David Luke. This year sees the SA’s formation reorganised to include new teams, which are as follows:
Trudy Bryan – Early Years
Sarah Hickling – Schoolwear and More
Sean Foster – Foster’s Schoolwear
Marie Conroy – Boydell’s
Mike Brumfitt – Falcon
Dan Turner – William Turner
Kuljeet Dulkoan – Diamond Textiles
Gill Phipps – Early Years
Alex Gani – School Uniform Direct
Mario Valentino – GS by Valentino
Darren Wise – Darlcy Garments
Matthew Easter – Trutex
David Burgess – David Luke
Howard Wilder – Blue Max Banner
Daran Brown – School Trends
Marie Bradburn – Agent
Peter Dalton – Nextgen Clothing
Linda Painter – Painter PR Ltd.
Sarah Hickling - Schoolwear & More
Philip Linz – The School Uniform Specialists
The SA also employs a PR and communications agency for press work.
THE SA CODE OF PRACTICE
The SA encourages best practice with a series of initiatives including the development of a robust Code of Practice, which its members are expected to adhere to. In addition, it provides members with a press service and acts as ‘the voice’ of the industry. The SA’s strategy is simply: to focus on the benefits of school uniform and all of the advantages that it can confer on pupils and schools. The SA believes that school-specific uniform can bring greater school pride, improved behaviour and better security for children.
MORE SUPPORT FOR MEMBERS
The Association issues factsheets to its members to help with issues they may face and need help on. Such issues can range from how to gain local press for their business to the current situation on raw material prices and how to go about trademarking a logo.
The SA also works extensively with all of the bodies who influence its market, having regular meetings with the Department for Education (DfE), politicians and other organisations and charities who have the wellbeing of school children at heart. It communicates regularly with schools to encourage them to understand the part that they can play in being fair to those who supply them with uniform, and to encourage them to develop strong relationships with members who are signed up to good practice. A new guide to buying school uniform and understanding the tendering process is part of that work. The SA believes that quality and service is the way forward for its industry. It does not advocate the trend of ‘disposable’ clothing, instead promoting the belief that a good garment with longevity offers the best value for a parent.
EVERY CHILD IS WORTH IT CAMPAIGN
The SA believes every child deserves a quality school-specific uniform, which matches that of everyone else and provides real value for money by lasting longer. The SA upholds that this can only be achieved by schools working closely with specialist suppliers, who can offer suitable solutions for all by using a mix of clothing specific to the school as well as generic items that are more widely available, giving a properly balanced uniform. Specialists recognise the importance of being able to provide all sizes and all colour options all year round, not just at Back to School time.
In order to spread its message that low cost uniform generally isn’t durable, the Association is working with a press team to deliver national media campaigns to promote the importance of good quality uniform for every child in the UK. This campaign is also supported by the SA’s own research, which highlights that it is a preconception that purchasing uniform from specialist suppliers is costly – school uniform costs on average just 45p per school day. What the Association identified as the real drain on many family budgets, is the clothing children wear when they are not in school. One individual garment to be worn out of school could cost an average of £46.58, which is £13.10 more than the cost of a full primary school uniform, excluding PE kit.
THE SA AND THE SCHOOLWEAR SHOW 2016
Once again, in October, the Association will be attending the biggest event in the schoolwear industry calendar in order to promote the benefits of membership to all schoolwear specialists attending.
Additionally, this year, the Schoolwear Show will be hosting business seminars for the first time during the exhibition. Plans are for the seminars to include information from the SA on how to help schools with the tendering process. The seminars will be held in the SA Coffee Lounge, which this year is sponsored by Winterbottom Schoolwear.
As in previous years, the Association will also be hosting its annual fundraising event at The Schoolwear Show. This year’s theme is Back to the 80s, with the event set to include a three-course meal and dancing.
LAUNCH OF THE SA GUIDE TO SOURCING AND SPECIFYING UNIFORM
The Association’s key project this year was the recent launch of a guide to help clarify the process for schools when it comes to specifying and sourcing uniform. SA chair David Burgess explains the reasons behind the guide’s creation.
“Our new guide to specifying and sourcing school uniform is intended to give head teachers and governors the information they need to ensure every child and every school benefits from the advantages of a high quality, good value uniform in terms of its benefits to learning, behaviour and safety,” says Burgess.
“We advise schools to review their school uniform agreements regularly, ideally every three to five years. Before any review, we recommend schools give their existing supplier(s) reasonable notice as suppliers may have a considerable stockholding of the current school uniform,” he continues. “When reviewing, schools should run a consultation with parents, governors and students, and then discuss any feedback with their selected tenderers.
“It is vital to always consider the quality, price and availability of products and to decide in advance how many products will require branding with the school badge or identity, as the right balance between specific and generic is critical. It’s very important to allow plenty of time for this process.
“Schools should be aware that at some point in the coming year, the DfE guidelines on specifying school uniform are expected to become statutory and they will need to make sure that they are compliant with policy. It is likely that they will need to put contracts out to tender and consider carefully the benefits of sole supplier agreements versus a shared supply arrangement, particularly if a school has been working with a single supplier for some time.
“This change in regulation was the main catalyst behind the launch of our new Guide to Sourcing and Specifying Uniform, as we felt schools required solid advice on how to undertake what can be an unclear process.
“Frustratingly, many schools are unaware of the preferred supplier timetable in order to achieve cost and delivery efficiencies. Many schools are also unclear as to whether they can choose a sole supplier contract or work with multiple suppliers. The DfE guidelines state either is acceptable.
“There are many choices of supply, such as direct-to-school, independent retailers, multiple retailers, internet suppliers or supermarkets. However, schools must be able to show the decision is best for parents based on factors including availability, price and convenience of supply, ethical sourcing, and consistency of the uniform. The most transparent way to do this is through a tendering process and the SA is working on a practical tendering form to use.
“Moving forwards, we will continue to work with the DfE to provide advice on how the industry works and offering help with regards to the guidelines becoming statutory. We will be updating the guide as and when we receive further information,” concludes Burgess.
SA GUIDE: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: How long do suppliers need prior to delivery?
A: Specialist suppliers typically make contact with their schools in October to ensure there are no changes planned. Autumn is when their stocks of uniform are at their lowest after the busy Back to School period. This is the time schools should inform them of any intention to change, as suppliers need to order garments at least three to four months in advance of delivery, longer for bespoke items. Schools should aim to finalise their decision before Christmas to give the supplier plenty of time to meet their needs. Otherwise, they should make Easter term the cut-off point.
Q: How can we ensure we lower the price of uniforms for disadvantaged families?
A: On average, children spend 10 hours a day in school uniform, so comfort and durability are vital. Responsible specialist suppliers should provide sensible advice and quality products at competitive prices with a mix of school-specific uniform items and generic garments to create a smart look at an acceptable price. Many SA members and other suppliers help schools to help disadvantaged families via a number of schemes, which you can find out more about on the SA website.
Q: What questions are important to include within a tender document?
A: The tender form should be specific to school uniform and only ask relevant questions to encourage more suppliers to tender and make the process more competitive and open. It should give clear details about the items required, so that prices can be compared, and give information regarding likely quantities and pupil numbers per school year. An example form can be downloaded on the SA website in the ‘schools’ section.
Q: Should specialist suppliers meet with a school face-to-face?
A: It is always beneficial to have a face-to-face meeting, or at least a telephone call, to clarify requirements. The better you understand the school’s needs, the better you will be able to serve them.