Schools switching to academies causes rise in uniform cost for parents

Schools switching to academies causes rise in uniform cost for parents

Parents have faced extra costs of new uniforms as schools convert to academies and an increasing number of schools require pupils to wear blazers, a Department for Education (DfE) report has found.

The DfE published the 68-page report by Elizabeth Davies from BMG Research today to examine the cost of school uniform, in comparison to 2007 – when the last research was commissioned.

The report said nearly one third of parents had experienced changes in their child’s school uniform in the last three years, with almost half of those having to fork out for new uniform in the last year alone.

The report said: “This was more likely to be the case where the child went to an academy than to another type of state-funded school (35 per cent compared with 19 per cent in the primary phase, and 43 per cent compared with 39 per cent in the secondary phase).”

There are more than 4,600 academies in England, compared to 203 in May 2010. Schools Week also revealed earlier this month that at least 54 academies had switched their sponsor since 2012, which can include pupils having to change their uniform.

And Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts said: “Lots of Mumsnet users are annoyed with schools that insist upon compulsory branded uniform from expensive suppliers, particularly as reasonably priced uniform can be found all over the high street. The result is artificially high prices which means it can be really hard for parents to meet the costs of a standard school blazer and PE kit.

“At a time when many families are struggling to pay the bills, it seems that uniform, which is intended to ensure that everyone is treated equally, is having the opposite effect, and creating division. Our users would, in the main, welcome some form of government intervention to cap the cost of uniform or assist those on lower incomes.”

The average total expenditure on school uniform for the 2014/15 school year by February was £212.88. The report found it was less expensive for those in primary school (£192.14 for boys and £201.04 for girls) than in secondary school (£231.01 for boys and £239.93 for girls).

The proportion of parents/carers who told the survey they had to purchase blazers for their child has increased by more than a third – up from 26 per cent in 2007 to 35 per cent in 2015.

While more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of respondents were “very happy” or “quite happy” with the cost of school uniform, that figure has decreased from 75 per cent in 2007.

The report highlighted disparities between happiness and household income. The survey found those families eligible for free school meals were more likely to be unhappy with the costs.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are determined that no child is disadvantaged because of uniform costs, and so it is encouraging that the overall costs of school uniform have decreased.

“We know there is no room for complacency, however, which is why we have made clear to schools that they should keep uniform costs to a minimum and prioritise value for money for parents.”