Cost of school uniform pushing parents into debt

The figures ITV News is reporting today show that it is not only pupils who dread the start of another school year - many parents are living in fear of the costs.

The startling headline is that an estimated one million households are pushing themselves into debt to pay for school uniforms.

The prices have swollen just as typical incomes have come under increasing pressure.

New research given exclusively to ITV News by The Children's Society show the average cost for secondary pupils is now £340 - rising £71 if clothes must come from specific outlets.

For primary pupils the average is now £255 - but add another £77 if the schools insists on buying from particular sources. The figures reveal that 13% of parents end up in debt to pay for school clothes, that's an estimated one million households in England alone.

Looking at the new figures, some may now ask whether school uniforms are becoming counter-productive. Of those asked, 10% of parents say children have ended up in clothes that don’t fit because of the cost of replacements. Even more worrying, one in 20 say their youngsters have been sent home for wearing the wrong gear.

Many parents believe the government should step in. Credit: ITV News

In 2015, the government promised to ensure value for money was a requirement when schools specify a uniform. So far, that has not happened.

We may all like the smart appearance of uniforms - but the government’s lack of action means it’s not looking so good.

Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb told ITV News: “School uniform costs should not be a barrier for any pupil attending or applying to a school of their choice.

“Our existing guidance is clear that when setting their uniform policies, schools should keep costs to a minimum and be mindful that they are affordable for everyone. Decisions about school uniform are made at a local level by school leaders, who are best placed to ensure these policies meet the needs of their pupils.”

ITV News has been asking parents for their views on the cost of school uniforms. Here are some of the responses:

The average cost of a primary school uniform is £255. Credit: ITV News
  • Mrs Charlene Amos

"I like the fact that schools have uniforms, but why do a skirt or trousers need a logo when the tops have them? It makes the trousers £15 or more when, in a different shop, I could pick them up for half the price. I hasten to add, the quality is not necessarily better for the more expensive shops either, which makes you that much more bitter!

"If there was more competition the prices would be better but for some reason there isn't for any school where the school logo is a requirement.".

  • Dawn Richardson

"Me and my partner both work, but I have had to put in extra hours to pay for uniforms. The starting price for the full high school uniform I've just got was £175 that doesn't include shoes trousers and shirts. I have two other children in high school and four in infant/ junior school so you could imagine the costs I have."

  • Kirsty

"It has just cost me over £200 for uniform. The schools are making it really difficult with frequent changes and making sure everything has the logo on so you can’t buy second hand or cheaper items from the supermarkets.

I think the government needs to step in and make things easier. I get that children need to be smart and have a uniform but they also need to eat and have a roof over their heads. I bet several children have suffered or will suffer because of the uniform being so expensive."

The government said their guidance to schools is clear that the should keep uniforms costs to a minimum Credit: ITV News
  • Christopher Moss

"My daughter was going up to secondary school, which happened to be an academy. We were under strict instructions: we must purchase black trousers/skirt, white blouse, cravat and blazer from a specific site that came with the logos sewn on. The trousers were just plain black, nothing special, the blouse was just a plain white one, nothing of quality and the blazer was really poorly fitting. When you check out, you have to top up your account with money, which they charged you 5% for doing and then charged delivery on top. It ended up costing me well over £150 for her uniform."

  • Chris Cliff

"I'm all for smartness but it's crazy how they dictate what they wear and where it's bought from. Blazers could be bought and badges supplied by the school to attach. Shoes that are made and described as shoes are NOT ALLOWED!"