Schools should stop insisting that children wear uniform displaying the school logo so that parents can buy less expensive items, according to a new campaign.
Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West and Hessle, says branded clothing which is often only available from one store costs far more and schools should adopt a colour scheme allowing parents to chose where to buy uniforms.
“You can buy a blazer from the supermarket for £10. If you get a blazer that has the school logo embroidered on it you’re paying £30 for the same kind of item,” she told Sky News.
“That just doesn’t seem right with families already struggling.
“The solution is for schools to have a colour scheme for schools to insist on a uniform for the children to look smart but schools to also recognise that parents don’t have an infinite amount of money and we don’t need to have branded items as well.
“I do have significant worries that some schools deliberately set high costs for uniform because it discourages parents on low incomes from applying there. I do think that is a problem out there and one way schools can prove me wrong – I’m happy to be proven wrong – is by saying we don’t need branded items anymore.”
At Djanogly Sherwood Academy Primary School in Nottingham a free school jumper or cardigan is given to pupils each year because many come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Liz Anderson, chief executive of the Djanogly Learning Trust which runs the school, told Sky News: “For a lot of our parents it’s a real struggle at the moment and particularly those who’ve got three or four children.
“If they’ve got to buy four whole sets of uniform it’s a lot of money so we can at least come part of the way with them and give them a sweatshirt or a cardigan and then point them in the direction of cheaper alternatives for the rest of the uniform.”
Tracie-Ann Haynes has three daughters at the school and said she “dreads” this time of year as they all need new uniforms.
“To be honest I dread this time of year, all wanting new uniforms from PE kit, cardigans, shoes,” she said.
“You want to buy quality things because they’re in them all day.”
She’s not keen on a move away from branded uniform though. “I do like to see the children with the logo. I think it brings the school together. I just think it’s a good thing,” she said.
Hamza Qureshi, who has three sons at the school, can see the benefits of being able to buy plain items. “In terms of a cost perspective it’s certainly a lot cheaper because the supermarkets are going to undercut everyone else,” he said.
The cost of school uniform is felt by parents in communities across the country. In Berkshire the First Days charity collects used school uniforms to give to parents who cannot afford to buy them new.
Founder Emma Cantrell said: “It needs to exist because there are 45,000 children in Berkshire who live below the poverty line.
“Every parent wants to be able to provide for their children and it’s really undignified to have to put your hand up and say actually this is something I can’t afford.
“What we do is we treat everything we give to families as a gift and actually we make it really clear to families that it’s because school uniform is too expensive that they can’t afford it.
“It’s not because of something they’ve done or something that’s a failure on their part.”