Parents have had enough of paying premium prices for school
uniforms, a new report by The Children’s Society has found.
The report, 'The Wrong Blazer: Time for action on school
uniform costs', reveals families are spending an average of
£251 per year for each child at a state primary school and £316 for
a child at a state secondary school.
Much of the high cost is because of school uniform policies that
make parents buy specific items of clothing and accessories from
specialist shops – rather than allowing them to grab bargains from
supermarkets and sew on a badge or logo later.
95% of parents believe they are expected to pay 'unreasonable'
The report calls for action from Government to make sure
uniforms are more affordable.
Survey of 1,000 parents
A survey of 1,000 parents carried out for the report found an
overwhelming 95% of parents believe the amount they are expected to
pay is 'unreasonable'.
The survey was commissioned to support the work of the
Children’s Commission on Poverty, a panel of young people from
across England whose investigation last year exposed the hidden
costs of school in the state sector – and how difficult they make
life for those in poverty.
Children whose parents cannot afford the price of special
uniforms face the humiliation of punishment and bullying for not
having exactly the right clothes or kit.
Cost of school uniforms
The new report finds that parents of secondary age children pay
the most for school uniform, with shoes the most expensive item,
costing £56 annually for each child. They are followed by coats and
bags (averaging £55 per year) and sport shoes and boots (£47).
Blazers are also pricey, with an average price tag of £42 for
secondary school pupils.
Where parents have to buy from a specific supplier, costs are an
average of £48 per year higher for secondary school children and
£93 higher for primary school children, the report found. Other
reasons for high costs include schools requiring many different
items of uniform – including coats, different ties for different
school years, and multiple items of sports kit.
Based on statistics from the Department for Education on numbers
of pupils in state schools, The Children’s Society estimates that
parents pay about £2.1 billion per year on school uniforms. That is
£1.3 billion more than what parents say would be “reasonable”. And
it is despite Government guidance which states that schools should
keep the cost of school uniforms down.
Make uniforms more affordable
The report calls for action from Government to make sure
uniforms are more affordable. Many low income families find the
costs of school uniform a real struggle. Based on responses to the
survey, The Children’s Society estimates that more than one million
children live in families that have cut back spending on food or
other basic essentials as a result of these costs. And more than
half a million are living in families that have got into debt
because of uniform costs.
The problem of rip-off school uniform policies is not confined
to the financial burden on parents. For too many children, it has a
real impact on their daily life and education.
The Children’s Society estimates that nearly 800,000 children go
to school in ill-fitting uniform because their parents cannot
afford to keep buying new items of the correct size. Meanwhile,
400,000 children whose parents could not afford the cost of uniform
have been sent home for wearing items deemed to be ‘incorrect’. And
a quarter of a million children have had their school chosen partly
on account of the cost of the uniform.
It is these children who bear the brunt of school uniform
policies which divide children into the haves and have-nots, in
some cases leading to children facing bullying and
Create statutory guidance on school uniforms
The Children’s Society is calling on the Government to explore
capping the cost of school uniforms to ensure that parents are not
paying unreasonable costs, and make guidance on school uniforms
statutory so schools have a legally binding commitment to keep
Comment from The Children's Society's Director of Policy and
Lily Caprani, Director of Policy and Strategy for The Children’s
Society, said: 'Parents are fed up with paying the costs of
stringent and prescriptive school uniform requirements that deprive
them of the choice to shop around for prices they can afford. They
are digging ever deeper into their pockets to pay for book bags and
blazers when what they really want is for their children to receive
a good education and a good start in life.
'We know that children whose parents cannot afford the cost of
specialist uniforms face punishment and bullying for not having
exactly the right clothes or kit. It’s time for the Government to
introduce legally binding rules to stop schools from making parents
pay over the odds for items available only at specialist
The Children's Society press release (24 February 2015): Parents
fed-up with rip-off school uniform policies (link opens in a new
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Date of publication: 24 February 2015