As we approach the end of what has been an unusual school year in difficult economic circumstances, for many parents the looming cost of new uniforms will be a worry.
In one Barnsley school, for example, uniforms required to be worn by students can cost over £120. And that is without taking into account extras for dance, drama or sports.
School logo embroidery, or the limited number of outlets from which uniforms can be bought means shops can charge higher prices.
And according to a study, four in ten parents said they spent between £101 and £200 on uniforms per child, with over a quarter spending between £201 and £300.
When families in Barnsley are already struggling to get by, and we know shockingly 25% of kids are growing up in poverty in our borough, it’s not right that compulsory costs for their child’s education could push them further into financial difficulty.
The previous Labour government strengthened provisions under the Schools Admissions Code which ensured limits in the prices of uniforms and a broad range of providers to ensure costs stayed low. Unfortunately, much of this guidance was removed by the coalition government that followed.
That’s why I was pleased to sponsor a recent bill in Parliament that changed this and that will bring the cost of uniforms down. It ensures there’s not just one supplier but several high street shops and supermarkets, and schools use coloured uniforms rather than require more expensive branding and logos.
And on a practical level I am pleased to this week be launching my school uniform exchange for the third time.
Before the pandemic we were able to hold physical uniform events and we will certainly explore this as restrictions ease. In the mean time to make sure everything is covid secure if you have any spare uniform please get in touch with my office or check my website and social media for details, for details of how to donate.
We will ensure it can be distributed to anyone who needs it. And if you are someone who needs uniform, please do get in touch, we will do our best to find you what you need.
I know as a former teacher, there are great benefits to uniforms, from instilling pride and a sense of community in a school, to supporting good behaviour and discipline.
But they must remain affordable, and we should do all we can to ensure no parent is forced to spend too much money for their child’s education when times are already so hard.