Voices: It’s time to end the madness of overpriced school uniforms

Posted: 18th September 2023

schoolgirl has been placed in isolation for not adhering to her school’s strict uniform code. Her crime? Wearing an Asda skirt.

Is this for real? What mum has not made a mad dash to the local supermarket to buy a gingham blue and white school dress, white polo shirt or pleated school skirt? Half the uniform gets lost in transit after PE – or taken home by the wrong child.

Apparently, this Asda skirt in question was identical to the one from the school official retailer used by Holderness Academy – no posh London day school, but a large comprehensive in Hull.

So what exactly is the problem? As if us mums don’t have enough school stress to deal with, now we have to negotiate the uniform police at the playground gates.

In a statement, the school has stuck to their guns, claiming their uniform – white blouse, blue-striped tie and, crucially, an “official” pleated black skirt from local retailer Rawcliffes, definitely not the supermarket replica – is designed to “foster equality and encourage a sense of pride”, while setting standards for the upcoming academic year.

The truth is, it’s setting the wrong standards entirely for parents struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. A two-pack of girls’ skirts at Asda cost as little as £5, compared to £21.99 for a pleated skirt from the school’s preferred outfitter.

It’s time to end the madness of overpriced school uniforms: parents should be free to buy the gear wherever it is cheapest. I’m not saying it’s right to send our kids into school wearing pink, flashing Barbie trainers. We need to use common sense.

But this school apparently inspects children’s uniforms in playground line-ups, as though they were recruits for the Territorial Army. Another pupil was put in isolation for wearing a belt. Perhaps the child needed help keeping up his trousers because they are currently too big? Has this school never heard of “room to grow”?

When it comes to enforcing strict dress codes, this Hull comprehensive is no outlier. My children’s state school also expects uniforms to have been bought from official suppliers.

But even this isn’t without its pitfalls. Last week, I had to drag my seven-year-old to the shops to get her kitted out with emergency logo sweatshirts, logo cardigans and the rest – £150 in all – after my online purchases from School Uniforms Direct were delivered and left in my front garden… and promptly cleared away by our rubbish collectors.

At least my lot aren’t at Eton. This academic year, uniforms from Billings and Edmunds in Eton High Street will set you back between £700 and £1,800, for two sets of daywear (tail suits, waistcoats, shirts, attachable collars, studs, overcoat), formal change (chino trousers, collared shirt, tie and single-breasted blazer) and general boarding items, such as socks. Its various sports kits (cricket, football, rugby, hockey…) are all extra.

While at Wetherby, Prince William and Harry’s old Notting Hill prep school, one mum told me that along with the endless school uniform list, her child was expected to dress as a superhero on his second Monday at school. Worse still, they are also required to wear different shoes on different days: “White plimsoles Mondays and Wednesdays, white trainers on Fridays, and black shoes Tuesdays and Thursdays,” she texted. “I kid you not.”

I’m not exposed to that level of uniform stress, but we state school mums suffer, too. Another friend at a big London state school just got her daughter’s uniform from the supplier, and it cost her £178; the blazer itself was £35.

This is daylight robbery. Luckily, there are regular second-hand uniform sales – but who wants their child to wear a shabby and faded cardigan if they can help it?

Why do schools encourage such ridiculous uniform policies.? The Department of Education has stated that “uniform should be affordable” and “costs for children should be kept down by enabling them [parents] to choose high-street and unbranded options”.

It appears that many schools, this comprehensive in Hull included, are failing to follow government guidance. They should stop breaking the rules — and our bank balances — and smarten up their act.

Source: Voices: It’s time to end the madness of overpriced school uniforms (msn.com)

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