Thursday 23 August 2012

The cost of schooling - CAB campaign tries to help

Uniforms were not always the norm - my class in 1980s
I was chatting to a neighbour who has a child in the primary school at Wembley ARK Academy the other day.  She was remarking on how, although it was not a private school, she was finding herself paying out money every term - not least for trips. She had only one child at the school but pointed out that it was proving difficult for families with several children.

Trips are to be encouraged but their costs impact on family budgets at a time when many are hard up. If they contribute to learning it is clear that all chidlren should have an opportunity to gain from them.

Another factor for many parents is the high cost of school uniform when they are asked to purchase from specialist school uniform shops or from the school itself, rather than buy the generic uniforms available from stores such as ASDA. Rapidly growing children will requite new uniforms regularly but may end up, due to lack of money, sprouting out of clothes far too small for them.  Some schools help by arranging uniform swap shops or arranging sales of second hand uniforms. Grants or vouchers are available in some areas towards school uniforms but not in Brent.

The Citizen's Advice Bureau has set up a campaign to address these issues:
Get involved in the Adding Up campaign today and help families struggling to meet the costs of schooling
This is what you can do to help:
  • Encourage: Does your local authority provides school clothing grants? Then make sure the grants don’t become victims of cuts by writing to the local authority. Here is a model letter (Microsoft Word 28kb) for you to use.
  • Don’t know what your Local Authority Policy is? For a quick check type a post code into the section on school uniform grants on the Directgov website.
  • Top tips: Could schools in your area do more to help parents by making uniforms, trips and kit more affordable ? If so then check out Citizens Advice top tips (Adobe Acrobat Document 160kb). Send a copy to your head teacher and/or chair of governors and ask what they are doing to help families.
  • Tell us about it ? The Adding up campaign wants to hear your experiences on school costs. Do you feel you are paying too much for uniforms, trips and other essential equipment ? What help is available in your local authority area and what is your experience of accessing it ? email Citizens Advice campaigns
The Adding up campaign helps families by:
  • encouraging schools and education authorities to promote cost-cutting policies on school uniforms, trips, kit and other items. This can save families hundreds of pounds a year
  • lobbying local authorities to tackle child poverty by offering school clothing grants to those most in need.


Pete Firmin said...

More fundamental is the question as to why schools have unifroms at all. many countries find it out that we require children/students to all dress the same. It is about discipline and nothing else. Not requiring children to wear school unoforms would make a big difference to many budgets.

Martin Francis said...

I could go on about this for ages but will resist the temptation. Some advocates of uniform argue that it reduces differences between children regarding quality and trendiness of clothes and thus reduces teasing and promotes equality. 'Your clothes come from Oxfam' was an insult very much around during the 70s when I started teaching. As a child from a large family I was teased in the 60s anyway because I was 'handed down' my sister's blazer which 'did up on the wrong side'. Because of its age it was a far paler blue (more grey) that anyone else's!

As a teacher I found parents often welcomed uniform because it ended breakfast time arguments in the family about what should be worn, suitability, too revealing etc although kids are very good at subverting uniform as you can witness any afternoon on Wembley High Road.

It is often argued that discipline is better with school uniform but I never found that the case having taught in schools with or without uniform. The same goes for schools where children are allowed to call teachers by their first names. It is far more to do with respect and relationships than the superficial trappings.

When I was headteacher at Park Lane we had a whole school debate and ballot of parents on whether to have a uniform. The pro-uniforms won.

However I still think it is important (not withstanding concerns about exploitation of foreign garment workers) to source simple, generic, affordable uniforms if a school does decide to have them.

Anonymous said...

Lawdale School, in Hackney, has a uniform based on generic jumpers and shirts and they provide their children with an iron-on badge.