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LGA - Parents being forced to buy school uniform unnecessarily

Parents are being forced to pay out hundreds of pounds unnecessarily at the start of the new term because schools are introducing costly new school uniforms, town hall leaders have warned.

As schools convert to academies many choose to bring in new uniforms, which can often be costly. This means parents could have to replace expensive items such as blazers or buy a full school uniform to replace perfectly good items.

At least 275 schools will convert to academy status at the beginning of the new school term, and more than 100 are in the process of applying to become an academy. Those in the process could convert to become an academy in the middle of the school year, which means that a total of almost 400 schools could end up changing their uniforms, leaving thousands of parents out of pocket.

According to the charity Family Action, parents can be landed with an average bill of £161 for boys at secondary school and £156 for girls for school uniform and an average cost of £113 for a primary uniform. In some case families are paying considerably more already and could now end up unnecessarily spending to replace an outdated uniform.

Instead, the Local Government Association is urging schools and their governors to ease the financial burden on parents and come up with practical ways which will allow pupils to keep existing uniforms and keep these costs to a minimum. The LGA says items such as blazers should be generic, so parents only have to buy a badge to attach to it, and items such as PE kit and school bags should not have to carry school badges.

The LGA, which represents over 370 councils across England and Wales, is also urging schools to ensure items are sold widely, rather than being available only from the school's own shop, to keep costs down for parents.

Cllr Nick Forbes, Vice Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:

"Hundreds of schools are becoming academies every year and many choose to mark this change, but headteachers and governing bodies should think about the costs a new uniform can have on mums and dads.

"Parents already do what they can to cut the cost of school uniform, such as buying items of uniform throughout the year, passing clothes between children, shopping around to get the best deal and buying plain items they can sew badges onto, but the introduction of a new uniform can mean families are faced with having to pay hundreds of pounds all at once, to replace clothes which there is nothing wrong with.

"We want to see schools adopting a common sense approach to uniform policies, for example, by keeping to a similar colour scheme and allowing parents to buy new items gradually rather than all at once. Items like a blazer can be expensive, so we'd like to see schools let parents buy plain items they can sew or iron badges onto."

Notes to editor

Schools can become academies – which are state schools that are not maintained by the local authority – at any time of year. There were been 104 applications from schools to become academies in the month leading up to August 1 2014 and in addition, there are 303 schools which are in development to become sponsored academies.
Open academies and academy projects in development
The LGA has issued a common sense guide for school uniform policies, to keep costs down:

  • uniform items chosen should preferably be widely available on the high street and be available from at least two different suppliers, not counting the school itself

  • school symbols and logos should be available as sew-on or iron-on patches

  • schools should consider choosing a colour scheme rather than a full uniform

  • uniforms should be the same or similar across all year groups, so they can be used for more than one school year

  • sports kits should be plain so they can be used for different sports. Parents should be given opportunities to buy and sell second hand uniform from other parents

The Family Action report The Big Stitch-Up is available here:

The Big Stitch-Up - How school uniform costs are punishing parents


Ruth Pott-Negrine
Senior Media Relations Officer
Local Government Association
Tel: 020 7664 3351
Mobile: 07979 803158
Out of hours: 020 7664 3333
Email: ruth.pott-negrine@local.gov.uk
Local Government House, Smith Square, SW1P 3HZ

Channel website: https://www.icaew.com

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