Call for school uniform grants and ban on caps and blazers to be discussed by Sunderland City Council

Low income families on Wearside could receive a cash boost to buy school uniforms under proposals being put to councillors next week.

Saturday, 14th September 2019, 9:00 am
Picture by PA

According to the Children’s Society charity, the cost of uniforms can put a financial strain on families – particularly when buying from a specialist retailer.

In 2015, the Department for Education listed the average cost of a school uniform as £212.88 per pupil excluding the cost of a PE kit.

Sunderland City Council already provides some assistance to families on benefits or low incomes around uniform bills.

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However, parents or guardians have to contact the school their child attends to find out if this is offered.

At the next full meeting of Sunderland City Council, the city’s Liberal Democrats will seek backing from other political groups for a formal policy.

If approved, it could be put in place in advance of the 2020/21 school year to “support parents in covering the cost of school uniforms”.

Under the plans, Lib Dems are calling for a guidance document to be circulated around schools to simplify uniform requirements and restrict where they can be purchased.

This includes ditching “high cost items” such as blazers and caps, making uniforms easily washable to avoid dry cleaning costs and limiting the scope of uniform changes.

The motion also asks schools to justify distinctions between differences in school uniforms between different sexes/genders.

It reads: “The costs of school uniforms represent a significant financial challenge for parents and pupils, especially those on low incomes.

“Costs can result in parents being unable to provide their children with a full school uniform or rely on purchasing ill-fitting oversized clothes.

“Whilst acknowledging the good work of community groups offering a uniform exchange, parents and pupils also can experience stigma through being forced to rely on second hand clothing.”

The proposals will be debated at Sunderland Civic Centre on Wednesday, September 18.

The motion will ask the council to.

Explore the development of a scheme to provide funding for school uniform grants for parents on the lowest incomes.

Report on a scheme to be prepared in advance of the 2020/2021 school year to support parents in covering the cost of school uniforms.

Encourage schools in Sunderland, Houghton, Hetton and Washington to consider ensuring that school uniform requirements are not over complicated and restrict where they can be purchased.

Guidance which could be shared includes:

o Only stipulate basic items and colours but not styles so that items can be bought from multiple retail chains at reasonable prices and not just from one authorised supplier.

o Avoid high cost items such as blazers and caps.

o Have easily washable items: dry clean only items should be avoided.

o If there are any differences in the school uniform and appearance policies between sexes/ genders, these should be justified and clearly stated in the policy.

o School governing bodies should have a sensible, flexible approach to uniform items to account for extreme weather conditions.

o Limit the frequency of uniform changes as this can be costly for parents and limits the scope for re-sale or handing on to siblings or other pupils.