More than 14,000 Northamptonshire children wear unclean or ill-fitting school uniforms due to cost of new ones

JPCT 240514 S14220198x Steyning festival. Steyning Grammar School. 400th anniversary reunion. Old uniforms in the Chatfield display exhibition room -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140527-100210001
JPCT 240514 S14220198x Steyning festival. Steyning Grammar School. 400th anniversary reunion. Old uniforms in the Chatfield display exhibition room -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140527-100210001
  • Across Northamptonshire, parents are spending an estimated £26.4m per year on school uniforms and accessories
  • Children whose parents cannot afford the cost of specialist uniforms face punishment and bullying
  • Call for Government to outlaw the enforced use of specialist uniform shops

Thousands of Northamptonshire children go to school in clothes that are dirty or do not fit, because of the high cost of school uniforms, the Children’s Society has said.

A report by the charity, reveals families are forking out an average of £251 per year for each child at a state primary school and £316 for a child at a state secondary.

It’s time for the Government to introduce legally-binding rules

Across Northamptonshire, parents are spending an estimated £26.4m per year on school uniforms and accessories.

Parents are so stretched that about 14,700 children have gone to school in incorrect, unclean or poorly fitting uniform because of the cost, the research suggests.

The Children’s Society says much of the high cost is because of school uniform policies that make parents buy specific items of clothing and accessories from specialist shops – rather than allowing them to buy from supermarkets and sew on a badge or logo later.

Lily Caprani, director of policy and strategy for The Children’s Society, said parents are fed up with paying the costs of “stringent and prescriptive” school uniform requirements

She said: “They are digging ever deeper into their pockets to pay for book bags and blazers when what they really want is for their children to receive a good education and a good start in life.

“We know that children whose parents cannot afford the cost of specialist uniforms face punishment and bullying for not having exactly the right clothes or kit.

“It’s time for the Government to introduce legally binding rules to stop schools from making parents pay over the odds for items available only at specialist shops.”

The new report finds that:

-parents of secondary age children pay the most for school uniform, with shoes the most expensive item, costing £56 annually per child.

-They are followed by coats and bags (averaging £55 per year) and sport shoes and boots (£47).

-Blazers are also pricey, with an average price tag of £42 for secondary school pupils.

-Where parents have to buy from a specific supplier, costs are an average of £48 per year higher for secondary school children and £93 higher for primary school children.

-Other reasons for high costs include schools requiring many different items of uniform – including coats, different ties for different school year groups, and multiple items of sports kit.

-A million children live in families that have cut back spending on food or other basic essentials as a result of uniform costs.

-More than half a million are living in families that have got into debt because of uniform costs.

-And a quarter of a million children have had their school chosen partly on account of the cost of the uniform.

The report follows an in-depth investigation into the hidden costs of school – including uniform costs – by the Children’s Commission on Poverty, a panel of young people from across England.

It found these costs were not only affecting family finances, but also harming the wellbeing of the poorest children.

One parent told researchers the cost of school uniform was “a constant source of anxiety”, adding: “I am not ashamed of being poor but I always want my children to look as well cared-for as others. I go without so my children can always have what is needed”.

Local authority area Number of children who have gone to school in incorrect, Total annual spend on school uniform (£)

ill-fitting or unclean uniform because of the cost

Derby 5,425 £9,636,056

Derbyshire 14,547 £25,956,655

Leicester 6,728 £11,732,350

Leicestershire 12,726 £23,038,315

Lincolnshire 13,776 £24,978,629

Northamptonshire 14,726 £26,405,403

Nottingham 5,651 £9,888,119

Nottinghamshire 15,691 £27,913,922

Rutland 750 £1,370,579