The cost of school uniform continues to be a burden for parents

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Parents of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) are more likely to have been asked by their schools to donate money, a survey has discovered.

The annual Parentkind survey found that while 38 per cent of parents had been asked for money, this figure rises to 45 per cent for FSM parents. The findings also show continuing concern from parents about the cost of schooling, including school uniforms.

Three quarters of the respondents said that the cost of sending their children to school is increasing and many say they are being asked to pay for things that used to be free, such as school clubs, concerts, and sports days. Top of the list of concerns were uniforms (46 per cent), school trips (43 per cent), school meals (19 per cent) and events such as concerts or sports days (13 per cent).

Unsurprisingly, concern over the cost of schooling is higher among FSM parents. For disadvantaged parents, the cost of uniforms tops the list of concerns (61 per cent), as well as school trips (49 per cent) and the cost of extra-curricular events such as concerts and sports days (20 per cent).

The report says that the practice of asking for donations continues to be “common practice” for many schools and of the 38 per cent of parents who were asked, 29 per cent donated money.

As well as FSM parents, the report also finds that parents in Northern Ireland are much more likely to be asked to donate (66 per cent versus 37 per cent in England and 32 per cent in Wales). Maintained schools were also more likely than standalone academies to ask for donations (46 per cent versus 31 per cent).

The report points out that uniform and school trip costs have been causing concern among parents for some time.

It states: “When we ask parents to tell us their top three items of concern in terms of school costs, uniforms and school trips remain by far the most commonly selected – this echoes results from our 2016 and 2017 (surveys) where these items also attracted the highest levels of concern.

“Parentkind would like schools to engage with parents from all backgrounds in order to understand the potential impact of school policies such as the cost of uniforms and school trips on families in order to ensure that they do not create a barrier to participation in school life.”

The findings on school uniform costs come after a 2018 Children’s Society report – The wrong blazer – found that parents with children in state maintained schools spent £340 per year on school uniform for each secondary school child and £255 per year for each primary school child.

Parentkind is a national body representing parent teacher associations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the research involved around 1,500 parents.


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