School uniform from independents is ‘top of the class’

School uniform from independent suppliers is less likely to shrink, tear or stretch compared with cheaper supermarket schoolwear, new tests show.

The tests, carried out by High Street Testing for The Schoolwear Association, compared generic uniform from well-known chain stores with generic uniform from independent retailers and suppliers.

Researchers put pullovers, polo shirts, trousers and skirts through a series of rigorous tests and found the independent garments washed well with minimal shrinkage, compared with their supermarket equivalents.

The independent retailer garments were generally made from heavier and thicker material, meaning they would tend to last longer and be less prone to rips and tears, as well as being warmer in winter.

Garments from the independents washed better than their supermarket equivalents with a pullover from one of the supermarkets shrinking over seven times more than one from an independent.

The test results follow a survey of parents carried out for The Schoolwear Association that found the average child spends more than 10 hours per day in school uniform.

Independent retailer items also beat their supermarket equivalents in seam strength. It took a 55kg force to rip a pair of trousers from one independent supplier while the back seams of supermarket trousers had long since given way.

Matthew Easter, chair of The Schoolwear Association, said: “Parents know that school uniform needs to be able to stand up to the rigours of everyday school life and survive many washes. Nevertheless, it’s easy to be tempted to buy the cheap clothes in supermarkets.

“These tests show that is a false economy. Independent retailers and suppliers provide better products and an expert, individual, all-year-round service for parents and schools.

“Rock bottom supermarket prices should set alarm bells ringing for parents. Chain stores seduce parents encouraging them to stock up on apparel before the school year, but what about during the rest of the year? Once chain store shelves are cleared, parents are left struggling to replace lost, damaged or ill-fitting garments.”

The association is a national voluntary organisation of more than 200 school uniform specialists, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers, who together clothe three quarters of Britain’s schoolchildren. Its Code of Practice requires members to ensure that garments are produced in an ethical manner both in terms of employment and attitude to the environment.

The association has launched a campaign to make school uniform tax-free by way of school uniform vouchers. If successful, it would help parents to budget for the annual cost of new uniform and save them money too, making better quality uniform more affordable.

If the campaign is successful, the vouchers will be redeemable at all participating school uniform providers, including supermarkets, but the association hopes better budgeting and tax savings will encourage parents to buy better quality, ethically sourced uniform rather than cheaper alternatives.

The petition has already achieved more than 1,000 signatures, a milestone that less than 5% of government petitions reach.

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