Cost of school uniforms is pricing the poorest out of state education

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The costs of paying for a free state school education are proving too high for three out of four parents, according to a survey published today.

Spiralling costs for school uniforms coupled with demands for money for school trips and photos and even books can add up to more than £1,000 a year.

In addition, nearly half of the respondents replying to a survey from the national charity Citizens' Advice said they had been asked to contribute to school funds - with some reporting pressure to make "voluntary" contributions.

The survey of 1,000 parents revealed an enormous variation in the cost of uniforms, with some saying they could cost as much as £500 in a year.

One lone parent, from Wigan, said her daughter's secondary school uniform had cost her an entire week's wage. "It is compulsory to have everything with the embroidered school logo on purchased at a specific shop," she added.

Six out of ten parents said they had been asked to contribute towards equipment for lessons, such as cooking equipment or arts and craft materials.

One in five added that they had paid more than £200 towards the cost of school trips, with three per cent paying more than £500.

Nearly half (43 per cent) said they were not given sufficient notice to budget for school trips, while four out of five felt it had not been made clear that families on a low income could be exempt from some or all of the cost of the trips.

The findings come despite government guidance issued to all schools warning them they could face prosecution from the Office for Fair Trading if they agree exclusive deals with particular suppliers over school uniforms.

David Harker, the chief executive of Citizens' Advice, said: "The Government should take action against schools to make uniform policies more realistic and affordable and should monitor schools to make sure they stick to the guidelines."

Meanwhile, the Schoolwear Association, which represents organisations that provide uniforms, condemned exclusive deals. Graham Michelli, a member of its board, said it was "completely opposed to schools using uniforms as a back-door selection method".