A campaigning Stratford mum is taking a stand against the high cost of school uniforms urging headteachers to bring the costs down or not make items with logos compulsory.
Kirsty Powell says she started the petition after being stunned by the £56 price tag of her child’s new compulsory PE kit at Stratford High School.
Kirsty said: “I posted a little rant on my personal Facebook account when I found out it was going to cost me nearly £60 to buy my child’s new PE kit, and when I looked at it the next day there were loads of other parents commenting that they were outraged about it too. I started the petition because I realised that this is not just an issue affecting me, it’s not just Stratford High School, it’s a national problem.
“I’ve aimed the petition at Nadhim Zahawi and schools. Paying £60 for a PE kit plus the blazer, the tie and everything else on top of that, you’re looking at around £200, it’s too much.
“I understand the need for a school uniform and the children to look smart but it’s having these expensive branded kits that’s the problem, it makes no difference to a child’s education whether they have a £3 PE top or a £20 one.”
In addition to the petition, Kirsty has also launched the Stratford Uniform Bank, encouraging parents to donate their child’s school uniforms when they are no longer needed.
Kirsty added: “I started the uniform bank to collect pre-loved uniforms and the support from the community has just been overwhelming. We’re collecting uniforms from different schools and the support from the community has been amazing, we’ve even had people buying new items for us. We’ve already filled up nine storage boxes.
“There are six collection points set up now right across the district, the main one is at Foundation House on Mason’s Road. We’re now looking to set up a referral scheme so we can make sure the uniforms go to those who need them most.
“It’s sad that we’ve had to set up the uniform bank, in an ideal world we wouldn’t have to.”
The petition, which has so far been signed by more than 260 people, also has the backing of Dominic Skinner, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson, who has been vocal in his support on social media.
Mr Skinner said: “As a father with two young kids, one of whom is rapidly approaching school age, I’m very concerned about this. I know Kirsty and I’ve helped her share the petition. Schools need to think about their uniform policies and talk to parents, I know schools are facing funding issues at the moment, but the pressure is really on families too.
“I’m not an expert on safeguarding issues but is it really necessary to have children’s names on the back of their PE shirts, it means you can’t pass uniforms on, some schools even have branded sports socks.
“The costs all add up and parents know that children grow out of things like they are going out of fashion when they have growth spurts.
“As a junior minister at the Department for Education, you would think Mr Zahawi would be in the perfect position to do something about this issue, especially as it is such a big problem in his own constituency.”
Former Stratford mayor Victoria Alcock added: “My daughter started at Stratford School two years ago, we had to buy her a PE kit for £40, last year they changed the logo so we had to buy another kit for £45. This year for Year 9 pupils they want students to have their name printed on their T Shirts and sweatshirts for PE, they even want the socks to have the school logo on so we’ve got to pay again. I think it really is unacceptable.
“I’m 100 per cent against my children having their names on the back of their shirts, I think it’s a safeguarding issue and it’s ill-advised because children are not always on school grounds when they’re in their PE kit. If your child plays in the football or rugby teams you have to buy a new school kit for that too, it actually puts me off encouraging my daughter to take part in competitive team sports.
“I can understand having to buy the school blazer and tie, but I estimate that just on my daughter we’ve had to spend in the region of £450 on uniforms.”
Responding to the criticisms of the Stratford High School’s uniform costs, a spokesperson said: “The school appreciates that financial pressures can affect many parents during the current economic time and that school uniform can add to those difficulties in the summer months. For this reason the school has kept it’s uniform pricing largely in line with other schools in the area and nationally. For example we sell separate blazer badges, our shirts and trousers are standard from any uniform supplier.
“Our school PE kit is actually one of the cheapest in the area. However if this provision is still difficult for the family the school is happy to work with families to help make the uniform more affordable and accessible to all. Parents can contact the school with any concerns via email@example.com.”
They added that the requirement for pupils to have their names printed on their PE T Shirt was only for KS4 students (Years 9-11).
Outlining his stance on uniform costs, Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi said: “School uniform costs should not be a barrier for any pupil attending or applying to a school of their choice.
“The Department for Education’s existing guidance is clear that when setting their uniform policies, schools should keep costs to a minimum and be mindful that they are affordable for everyone. Decisions about school uniform are made at a local level by school leaders, who are best placed to ensure these policies meet the needs of their pupils.”
To view Kirsty’s petition visit https://www.change.org/p/reduce-compulsory-school-uniform-costs