Writing in the Independent, Susan Elkin argues that the fact that parents on the poverty line are having to spend up to two thirds of their income on clothing for their children is scandalous and immoral…
I have argued for decades that school uniform causes more problems than it solves. A piece I wrote about it for The Independent 20 years ago in 1993 was even used for a GCSE comprehension paper.
Insistence on corporate dress for children and teenagers leads to strings of distracting petty rules which are either time-consumingly enforced or ignored so that the uniform isn’t, well uniform, so why bother?
…Family Action finds that parents on the poverty line are having to spend up to two thirds of their income in August on (completely unnecessary in my view) clothing for their children. That is both scandalous and immoral.
One of the schools surveyed, according to the report, is taking academy status this autumn. That means ‘rebranding’ as if it were a commercial business. Have we completely forgotten that schools are different from supermarkets and mobile phone companies? And with the new image, of course, comes a new uniform – £225 instead of £99 which is what it cost for the old school. Result? 70 per cent of parents have had to take out loans to pay for it.
…Some local authorities have discretionary uniform grants, but it is a matter of luck whether the one you live in happens to be one of them. There are sometimes local charities and trusts which are good at helping parents with school uniform too – I had access to one of these when I was dealing with uniform issues in a school and could get small grants for needy families. But provision is patchy.
Academies are well funded. Rather than spending money on fancy logos, hotel style reception areas and high salaries for administrators perhaps, if they are determined on a fancy uniform, they should be prepared to provide some of the required items free of charge for pupils whose families are unable to pay for them.
Family Action wants schools to stop insisting on branded uniforms and allow parents to buy plain standard garments such as black trousers and white shirts wherever they wish. Personally I’d go several steps further and ask them to forget school uniform completely. It would save parents money and teachers many an avoidable confrontation. And there might be more time and energy to spend on teaching and learning.
Do you agree with Susan Elkin or do you think uniform – as long as it is an affordable uniform – actually saves parent money? If there is no uniform is the danger that school becomes a fashion parade with a pressure on parents to buy expensive brands? Tell us what you think in the comments or via twitter…