A new law that aims to stop parents paying rip-off prices for school uniform has passed its first hurdle in the Commons.
The progress is a victory for parents and our sister paper the Sunday People after a Labour MP's Private Member's Bill was backed by the government.
Mike Amesbury's Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill passed its second reading unopposed, will now undergo detailed scrutiny in Parliament – and could take effect by the new school year.
It will force ministers to issue guidance to schools on the costs of uniform.
In practice, that could mean ordering schools to stop relying on single suppliers of branded gear – a practice Mr Amesbury branded a "monopoly".
The MP said his law would "do the right thing". He added: "Today is an opportunity to help children such as Emily.
"Rather than facing the indignity of her classmates knowing her family did not have the money to replace lost PE uniform, she asked her mum to write a sick note saying that she was injured.
"Or children such as Callum, who was put in detention because his parents did not have the cash to replace his blazer, which no longer fitted him because of a growth spurt."
Critics such as uniform shop Super Stitch 86 have called the Bill "a Trojan Horse to get rid of school uniforms" or a bid to ditch branded gear altogether.
But Mr Amesbury said those claims were "yah-boo politics and spin". He added: "The Bill is not anti-school uniform. The Bill is not a gateway to some slippery slope that paves the way to the abolition of school uniforms, far from it.
"As a teenager who went to a school in the ’80s that did not have a uniform, that was not a good thing. It highlighted the haves and the have-nots and the fashions of the day."
Mr Amesbury highlighted a damning Children's Society report which put average uniform costs at £340 a year for secondary schools and £255 for primaries.
Tory MPs hotly disputed the figures, saying the Schoolwear Association had put the cost of compulsory items at just £101 per pupil. One firm told the Mirror costs could be even lower – as it supplies a set including cardigan, jumper and trousers for under £50.
The Department for Education's own research in 2015 put "average total expenditure" on uniform each year at £213.
And Schools Minister Nick Gibb said he was "pleased" to back the new law adding: "In future, when it's back to school time, families [will be] finanically reassured, not burdened.
"It is a subject that crosses party lines and which will positively improve the lives of families across this country."
Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner added: "Parents have reported that they've had to cut back on essentials like food to cover the cost for their (children's) school uniform.
"Children have been sent home and denied their education, but this Bill is going to change that."
Mr Gibb highlighted how many schools have made efforts to support vulnerable families with costs, noting this included second-hand uniform schemes – including an exchange system in Barnsley.
Mr Gibb went on: "I would like to see every school finding a way to make second-hand uniforms available.
"My younger brother … had the advantage of wearing my hand-me-downs on occasion and it didn't do him any harm."
Sam Tarry, Labour MP for Ilford South, backed more affordable school sports kit and told MPs he recalled "my Mum saying to me we couldn't have the Dunlop Green Flash.
"We'd have to go and get the £3 bargain plimsolls out of the box, and the thought of dread of going to school the next morning and the embarrassment of PE in those crummy plimsolls".
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