£267 cost of school uniforms 'causing bullying and truancy' in Wakefield

Parents of secondary school children in Wakefield face an average cost of £267 Credit: PA

An investigation has found that the high cost of school uniforms in Wakefield is leading to bullying and truancy among pupils.

Councillors looked into the cost of uniforms at 16 schools across the district, with the average total, including PE kit, calculated to be £208 for primary school children and £267 for those at secondaries.

The cross-party group of councillors said costs were "too high" and a "barrier" to education.

Their report criticised local schools for a "lack of transparency" over their uniform pricing and for insisting on branded clothes with academy logos on.

'Ill-fitting uniforms single a child out'

In their written findings, they said: "The fact that children grow out of things quickly and can lose or damage their uniform, then the cost of providing uniform can become a significant financial burden, making even uniform clothing bought from high street retailers prohibitive.

"Wearing the wrong or ill-fitting uniform singles a child out from the rest, increasing the risk of them falling victim to bullies or playing truant because they do not feel they fit in.

"Not only does this impact on the child's education but may also affect their health and wellbeing."

More expensive for girls

The investigation also found:

  • Most schools have a single uniform supplier, which is restricting competition and keeping prices high

  • Some schools do provide support to families on low incomes, but this is "not always well publicised"

  • The price of girls' trousers at some schools was higher than boys' trousers. The reverse was the case in other schools.

  • Primary schools have a "more relaxed approach" to uniform than secondary schools

  • Schools are "failing to check on family circumstances" when a child attends with the wrong uniform, with some pupils forced into isolation when they do.

The government brought in new guidance last year, which says schools should keep the number of branded items to a "minimum" and ensure second-hand uniform is available to parents.

The report recommended academies provide emergency funding for parents who are struggling

But head teachers do not have to fully comply with that guidance until the summer of 2023.

Sally Kincaid, from the National Education Union's (NEU) Wakefield branch, said the uniform issue was becoming a "minefield" for parents.

Ms Kincaid said: "If schools want to insist on a dress code, they should be keeping the prices for it absolutely minimal and they should be providing support to parents who need help to pay for it.

"There are some secondaries who do give pupils a free uniform when they start Year seven, but we know how quickly children of that age outgrow their clothes, so it's a token gesture really."

The report recommended academies provide emergency funding for parents in "financial hardship" to spend on uniform.

Responding to the report and the criticism of schools, James Bowen from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said: "It's important to remember that a large number of schools already work extremely hard to ensure that their uniform is affordable for families.

"Many schools also run schemes to provide support for families who might be struggling with the cost of uniform.

"That being said, it's important that uniform remains as affordable as possible in every school.

"We know that an increasing number of families have come under financial pressure due to the pandemic, so measures that could reduce the cost of uniform are welcome."