The cost of school uniforms is leaving hundreds of thousands of children at risk of bullying and embarrassment because they are sent to school in ill-fitting clothes or sent home for not having the correct kit, a children’s charity has warned.
The Children’s Society added that parents are paying hundreds of pounds for school uniforms, with many poor families ending up in debt or forced to cut back on basic essentials to pay for items.
Current school policies risk dividing pupils into the “haves and have-nots”, leaving those without the right kit at risk of bullying, according to the charity’s research.
The findings, based on a poll of around 1,000 parents, found that 95 per cent of mothers and fathers think school uniform costs are “unreasonable”.
An analysis by the charity suggests that nearly 800,000 pupils go to school in poorly fitting uniforms because their parents cannot afford to keep buying new items, while a further 400,000 have been sent home for wearing “incorrect” clothes. Around a quarter of a million children are said to have had their school chosen for them based on the cost of its uniform.
On average, families with school-age children spend £316 a year on items for a child at a state secondary and £251 annually on average for a child at a state primary. Shoes were the most expensive item at £56 on average for secondary-school children and £53 for primary-age pupils, followed by coats and bags (£55 for secondary and £44 for primary).
Blazers cost parents with secondary-school children £42 on average, and £32 for primary-school children.
One parent said: “My oldest daughter, they sent her home and said she wasn’t allowed to come back until she had the correct shoes. So then I had to write a letter to say that we’ll be able to get some in a week or so, I didn’t have any money.”
Another told researchers: “School uniform is a constant source of anxiety. I go without so my children can always have what is needed.”
“In many cases, parents have to cut back on other essentials in order to afford uniform costs,” the report found. “More than one million children live in families that have cut back spending on food or other basic essentials as a result of the cost of school uniforms. More than half a million are... [in] debt as a result of uniform costs.”
One of the key reasons for high uniform spending are policies that force parents to buy items from specialist shops. Families who had to shop in a specific place saw costs pushed up by £48 on average for secondary-school children and £93 for primary pupils.
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