Thousands of Northamptonshire children go to school in clothes that are dirty or do not fit, because of the high cost of school uniforms, the Children’s Society has said.
A report by the charity, reveals families are forking out an average of £251 per year for each child at a state primary school and £316 for a child at a state secondary.
It’s time for the Government to introduce legally-binding rules
Across Northamptonshire, parents are spending an estimated £26.4m per year on school uniforms and accessories.
Parents are so stretched that about 14,700 children have gone to school in incorrect, unclean or poorly fitting uniform because of the cost, the research suggests.
The Children’s Society says 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 buy from supermarkets and sew on a badge or logo later.
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
She said: “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 shops.”
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 per 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.
-Other reasons for high costs include schools requiring many different items of uniform – including coats, different ties for different school year groups, and multiple items of sports kit.
-A million children live in families that have cut back spending on food or other basic essentials as a result of uniform costs.
-More than half a million are living in families that have got into debt because of uniform costs.
-And a quarter of a million children have had their school chosen partly on account of the cost of the uniform.
The report follows an in-depth investigation into the hidden costs of school – including uniform costs – by the Children’s Commission on Poverty, a panel of young people from across England.
It found these costs were not only affecting family finances, but also harming the wellbeing of the poorest children.
One parent told researchers the cost of school uniform was “a constant source of anxiety”, adding: “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”.
Local authority area Number of children who have gone to school in incorrect, Total annual spend on school uniform (£)
ill-fitting or unclean uniform because of the cost
Derby 5,425 £9,636,056
Derbyshire 14,547 £25,956,655
Leicester 6,728 £11,732,350
Leicestershire 12,726 £23,038,315
Lincolnshire 13,776 £24,978,629
Northamptonshire 14,726 £26,405,403
Nottingham 5,651 £9,888,119
Nottinghamshire 15,691 £27,913,922
Rutland 750 £1,370,579