Friday, 16 August 2013

School Uniform - Without the Debt

I personally like school uniform. Many parents I know especially with bigger families like mine also like school uniform. The main reasons have nothing to do with education, pride, etc.

The first reason is cost of personal clothes for the school week if uniform were abolished. Take my 4 lads.  A few years back when I had all 4 in school would have amounted to 4 pairs of trainers (obviously fashionable ones so as to keep up with the trends and not be the odd one out in class) accompanied by an array of "personal taste" type clothes. For my eldest who went through a Goth and Punk phase, it would have been clothes from the specialist little shops in Liverpool where I remember spending £40 on a shirt for a birthday once. For my second son the "fashion pony" the latest styles and trends of whatever happens to be in Topman and River Island at the time. For my third sporty son, all the latest Adidas, Nike type sportswear and for my 4th quirky son a few shirts and quirky styles from Joe Browns.

The result: a huge bill for us their parents. You know kids, especially teenagers. New clothes and trends must be kept up with. I can only guess at the horrendous bill for girls and after the sad deaths recently of children being bullied on social media sites, I could forsee bullying on a large scale if children were picked on by not conforming to the latest styles. Those from low income families would find the playground a place to avoid at break times as their classmates assess who is wearing the "correct" trends and who is not.

The second reason is ease of knowing what each is wearing Monday to Friday. Those parents having to race out on the school run are quite happy knowing their child has one choice only. The school uniform! Imagine trying to get out of the house with a teenage daughter wondering what to wear that day!

So yes I am all for school uniform but I would like modifications. Far too many schools, like my sons have a school blazer with school crest embedded on, a school jumper again with the school logo and a school tie that has to be bought from a specialist store. Lets get to a base in state schools where we can buy generic school uniform. Plain coloured jumpers, blazers and ties with no logos and easily bought at any shop from Matalan, Asda, Tesco, M+S and co. Any state school and the new free schools and academies should now all be going to a generic uniform that can be easily bought, and thus avoid debt for the families on low incomes. I know when all 4 of my sons were in school,from primary up to secondary school, August came with basically a wallet/purse warning. I started buying shirts and bags in June before they even had the chance to break up from school! Larger families with 3+ kids can have bills of £250 per child once you include coats, bags, and stationery equipment. Lets try to soften that bill by having generic uniform.

Credit unions are also a great help in the month of uniform need as people can take out a small loan to cover some of the costs. But why not let's try to get this cost and burden down now by making our schools more aware about the burden of debt parents are getting into just to send their kids to school. Remember a lot of these parents are currently visiting Foodbanks to feed their families, so school uniforms are an added terror at this time of year. Many people in my local community are donating good second hand school uniform to the Foodbank, so it can go directly to those most in need of help
But let's start off by lobbying the Heads of Schools and getting an acknowledgement that educating our children shouldn't be resulting in debt for parents.