ONE million children belong to families in England who are getting into debt to pay for school uniforms, a study by the Children’s Society has found.
The charity’s report The Wrong Blazer 2018, published last week, says that 13 per cent of parents surveyed were getting into debt over paying for school uniforms, up from seven per cent in its 2015 report.
Parents pay an average of £340 for each child’s uniform for secondary school, and they pay £255 on average for each child for primary school. One thousand parents were surveyed for the study.
The report says: “One of the key reasons for the high costs are school uniform policies that make parents buy specific items of clothing and accessories from specialist shops. . .
“Where parents have to buy two or more items of school uniform from a specific supplier, costs were an average of £71 per year higher for secondary school children and £77 higher for primary-school children.”
One parent told the study: “School uniform is a constant source of anxiety. I am not ashamed of being poor, but I always want my children to look as well cared for as others. I go without so my children can always have what is needed.”
The authors of the report say that they “estimate that around 2 million children across England go to school wearing incorrect, unclean, or ill-fitting uniform”.
They continue: “Almost half a million children have been sent home because of wearing incorrect uniform.”
The charity’s chief executive, Matthew Reed, said last week: “It’s truly shocking that so many families are affected by the excessive and unaffordable price-tag on school uniforms, forcing thousands to cut back on food and heating, or having to borrow money to cover the costs. It’s also damaging children’s well-being, and, in many cases, getting in the way of their education.”
The Revd Lesley Jones, a Team Vicar in Sittingbourne, in Canterbury diocese, helps to run a Community Wardrobe with other organisations, to help families who are struggling with the financial demands of school.
Mrs Jones said: “We formed a group made up of churches, a domestic-abuse charity [Joining Hands Joining Hearts], the Neighbourhood Furniture Store, Optivo Housing Association, our local borough council [Swale]. Volunteers offered to launder and redistribute any unwanted school uniforms. . .
“This year, donations were incredible, with lots of schools getting involved and parents keen to hand uniform in and collect bigger sizes. We tracked most items coming in and out until donations surpassed 5000 items.”
Mr Reed said: “Too many parents still face having to buy a number of items from specialist suppliers, when they could pick up similar items at cheaper stores and supermarkets.
“We want the Government to fulfil the commitment it made in 2015, and enforce legally binding rules which ensure that schools make the cost to families a top priority in setting school uniform policy. This change would potentially save families hundreds of millions of pounds, without costing the Government a penny.
“We also want the Government to end the freeze on key benefits and tax credits for families with children, which is making it increasingly hard for those on a low income to make ends meet.”