Schools must keep uniform costs down – Local Government Association

New free schools and those converting to academy status should take steps to keep school uniform costs down and ensure hard-pressed parents aren’t hit with an unnecessary financial burden, local government leaders are warning.

The Local Government Association is concerned that parents of children attending new free schools or schools changing to academies will be forced to buy expensive new uniforms as schools ‘rebrand’ and is calling upon schools to keep the costs to families to a minimum.

According to the most recent figures, more than 50 per cent of secondary schools in England are either academies or in the process of becoming academies and there is a growing number of primary schools also converting.

In addition, around 50 new free schools are due to open this September and a further 102 new free schools have been approved to open in 2013 and beyond.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is now urging schools to show restraint when deciding to change their uniform by changing just one or two items or by introducing replacement sew-on logos.

But it’s not just school uniforms that can hit parents in the pocket. Providing school sports kits can also be expensive with some schools demanding different outfits for each sport, each with distinctive logos or patterns.

The average cost of a school uniform is more than £200 for secondary school and £160 for primary. This is in addition to the cost of providing the kit needed for sports and PE and other ‘back-to-school costs’.

The LGA is encouraging schools to follow a number of ‘common sense’ principles to keep the cost of school uniforms and sports kits 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
  • 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.

Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“In the current education landscape dozens of schools across the country are changing their names or identities. It is understandable that many will want to mark this, but they need to remember that parents do not have an endless pot of cash for new school clothing.

“After already forking out for a whole new uniform when their children started primary or secondary school, the last thing parents want to hear is that they will have to foot the bill for entirely different uniforms, sometimes just 12 months later.

“Headteachers have a moral responsibility to minimise any additional costs that occur because they change their name or status, for whatever reason. That can be achieved by staying close to an existing colour scheme, changing one item only such as a tie, or allowing parents to sew new badges and logos onto clothes. Offering uniforms from a number of retailers and making it easier to attach logos to widely available clothing also lets schools keep their individuality while bringing in the necessary competition to keep costs down.

“Parents should be aware they have the power to influence schools over their uniform. Mums and dads everywhere should feel able to ask questions of their school governors and speak up if they think uniform is too expensive or too hard to get hold of.”

Parents who are concerned about the amount of expensive new uniform they are being expected to provide should raise any concerns through their school governing boards, who are responsible for deciding on their school’s uniform policy or dress code.

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