Wigan children who can’t afford branded school uniforms left feeling "shame and guilt"
Coun Nazia Rehman, responsible for finance at Wigan Council, has launched a campaign urging schools to relax their uniform policy, limit their use of branded items from premium shops and provide stitch-on logos where possible.
In a cost of living crisis many families, even those of children who do not qualify for free school meals, are finding it difficult to pay for school uniforms, Coun Rehman told Wigan full council. She explained that parents spend on average £337 per year on school uniforms for each secondary school child and £315 on each primary school child.
“Madam mayor, the cost of school uniforms has long been recognised as a source of financial and emotional stress for families living on a low-income,” the Labour councillor told Wigan Town Hall.
“This is more critical for single parent families and families with more than one school going children and although it has been for several years, it’s only become more acute recently with the cost of living going up. Recently the cost of school uniforms, especially branded items, and items with school logos that families must buy from exclusive suppliers are putting unnecessary financial burden on parents, creating shame and guilt for pupils whose parents simply can’t afford it – putting children from poor families at a disadvantage even before the school day starts.”
This comes more than a year on from when MP Mike Amesbury successfully got a bill to make provision for guidance to schools about the costs aspects of school uniform policies over the line. Coun Rehman believes this is even more important now as a result of “rising prices, increasing rents, hikes in interest rates and increase in fuel prices”.
“Coats, bags, and school shoes were the most expensive items for both primary and secondary school,” she added.
“Many schools also require certain items to be branded or be bought from specific suppliers and families can struggle to pay these high prices, which in turn has negative impacts on learning and self-concept of children. Madam mayor, I believe parents should not have to think about the cost of a school uniform when sending children to be educated.
“Schools should keep the use of branded items to a minimum and ensure that their uniform supplier arrangements give the highest priority to cost and value for money. Schools should also ensure that second-hand uniforms are available for parents to acquire and information on second-hand uniforms should be published clearly on the school’s website.”
The motion was widely accepted across the board with members from the opposition Conservatives approving the motion. Coun Edward Houlton even shared an anecdote with the chamber about how he used to cost his mum a fortune regularly losing his hat on his way home from school.
Coun Rehman highlighted that her firm belief is that school uniform is an important factor in making school feel more inclusive, but that it should not be a financial burden when getting an education.