The “rebranding” of schools into academies and the opening of free schools could hit parents hard as they are forced to buy expensive new uniforms, local government leaders have warned.
The Local Government Association (LGA) says that many schools are demanding a “whole new set of branded uniform” when they convert to academy status.
In addition, schools which demand that pupils have a range of PE gear and even buy their own sporting equipment are putting unnecessary financial pressure on families.
More than 50 per cent of secondary schools in England are either academies or in the process of becoming academies.
In addition, around 90 new free schools are due to open this month and approximately 100 new free schools have been approved to open in 2014 and beyond.
The LGA says that the average cost of a school uniform is £285 for secondary school students and £156 for primary pupils. The LGA also claims that some schools demand seasonal sports kits or different outfits for different sports, as well as football boots, rugby studs, astro boots and new trainers.
Parents are even having to pay for equipment such as cricket bats, hockey sticks and mouth guards, in some cases.
The governing body of each school decides on the uniform policy or dress code, and it is the headteacher’s responsibility to make sure pupils keep to the rules.
The LGA is urging schools to keep costs down by changing just one or two items, using replacement sew-on logos, and facilitating the buying and selling of second-hand uniforms between parents.
Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “As scores of schools across the country change their names or identities it is understandable that many will want to mark this, but headteachers need to bear in mind the potential financial cost to already hard-pressed families.
“Parents already look to minimise costs by buying larger uniforms that their children can grow into, shopping in sales, spreading the cost by starting to buy items as early as spring, or even buying second-hand items such as school blazers. But it’s more difficult for mums and dads to plan ahead when their child is set to attend a newly built or rebranded school.
“Headteachers have a responsibility to minimise any additional costs that occur because they change their school’s name or status, for whatever reason.
“The last thing parents want to hear is that they will have to foot the bill for entirely different uniforms, sometimes just 12 months after they bought the last one.
“We’d like to see schools sticking close to an existing colour scheme, changing one item only such as a tie, or allowing parents to sew new badges and logos onto clothes.
“Offering uniforms from a number of retailers also brings in the necessary competition to keep costs down.”
The LGA represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales.