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School Uniform and children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Parent carers of young people with SEND often report that one of the biggest barriers to attendance is school uniform. Some pupils with SEND have difficulties related to dyspraxia, physical difficulties and/or sensory processing differences, and uniform can be a considerable issue. Collars and blazers may be too stiff, buttons too tricky, skirts and trousers difficult to get on, ties too restrictive, labels too tickly/painful/itchy and certain socks and shoes overwhelmingly uncomfortable.

Transition to secondary school can be a real worry for young people with SEND differences, particularly with regard to uniform policy. Below details the DfE guidance relating to uniform and the Equalities Act 2010 which SENCos may find useful as well as links to share with families to local and national companies we are aware of that provide school clothing that may be more suited for pupils with SEND.

Also take a look at Top Tips for families and teachers for supporting children and young people with SEND as they chose and prepare to wear their new school uniform.

Government guidance

The Department for Education’s guidance strongly encourages schools to have a uniform, and in its guidance it recommends that governing bodies should take into account the views of parents and pupils as well as costs when making decisions.

Human rights, equality and discrimination considerations.

When making decisions about their uniform policy, a school must have regard to its obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. A school will need to consider the impact of their policy on pupils who share a protected characteristic.

The relevant protected characteristics which schools should consider when developing and implementing their uniform policy are:

  • sex
  • religion or belief
  • race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin)
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy

See the guidance for schools on how to comply with the Equality Act 2010 for more information. Technical guidance for schools from the Equality and Human Rights Commission is also available.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, with support from the Race Disparity Unit in the Cabinet Office, have produced guidance on preventing hair discrimination in schools. Schools may find it helpful to consider this guidance when developing and reviewing their uniform policies.

Governing boards should aim for their uniform policy to be as inclusive as possible, and schools should be considerate in the implementation of their uniform policy so that all pupils are able to wear the uniform.

Complaints and challenges to school uniform policy.

Disputes about school uniforms should be resolved locally and should be pursued in accordance with the school’s complaints policy. In law, governing boards must have a complaints procedure in place to deal with issues such as a complaint about school uniform.

Parents should be able to lodge their complaints and objections easily. We expect the governing board to consult and work closely with parents to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome.

If a school has in place a contract with a specific supplier, the governing board should ensure that the supplier has an agreed procedure to deal with complaints about the supply and quality of uniforms.

A school uniform should be inclusive, and we expect schools to be considerate when implementing their policy so that their uniform is able to be worn by all pupils. Where the subject of a complaint is due to a pupil’s protected characteristic, governing boards should carefully consider requests to vary their uniform policy.

Sensory and Adaptive School wear

Top Tips for supporting pupils with their new school uniform