Sky-high cost of academy school uniforms 'pushing Wirral families into financial hardship'

Wirral Globe - 04 Oct 2017

A WIRRAL MP has launched a broadside against the "injustice" of academies and free schools charging sky-high prices for uniforms "pushing families into financial hardship."

Frank Field has written to education secretary Justine Greening to investigate and take steps to protect those on low-incomes.

But he is unimpressed with her response and will be tabling questions to parliament.

Mr Field was made aware of the problems during a meeting of the Feeding Birkenhead group - an organisation set up by him to ensure children continue to get free meals during school holidays.

Parents said strict and rigidly-enforced dress codes mean they must fork-out several hundreds of pounds.

In his letter to Ms Greening, Mr Field said: "During a discussion on the provision of meals and fun for children during the summer holiday, it was reported that the cost of school uniforms is pushing growing numbers of families into financial hardship.

"Some academies and free schools are now not only setting rigid dress codes, backed up by strict enforcement practices but are also drastically changing them so that new uniforms, which cannot be found on the high street, must be bought on a more regular basis than in previous years.

"This has, not surprisingly, made it much more expensive for parents to comply with the dress code set by those schools – in total, it can cost several hundreds of pounds for some families, including £20 for each specially embroidered backpack."

Ms Greening thanked the MP for raising "this important matter" but said it was for the schools' governing body to decide on uniform policy.

She said her department has published guidance "emphasising the importance of cost consideration."

Mr Field told the Globe today: "When Parliament returns from recess I’ll be tabling a series of questions to get to the bottom of this injustice.

"We need to find out, for example, what action if any is taken against those that are ripping off hard-up parents by flouting the guidelines on the affordability of school uniforms."

Leigh Marles, Wirral Globe