School Uniforms – Are they really needed? Where to buy cheap school uniforms?
As we move through August, looming on the horizon is the return to school for kids across the country. With this comes the time that many parents dread – the buying of the new school uniforms. The vast majority of schools around the UK have a firm school uniform policy but the burden of buying these uniforms fall on the parents. So are they really needed?
Are uniforms too expensive for parents?
One of the biggest problems for parents isn’t the concept of school uniforms but the cost. The rising cost of these clothing items can be too much for families on low incomes and part of this problem comes from the fact that only certain places sell some pieces of the uniform.
The government competition watchdog last year issued an open letter to all head teachers where it urged them to reconsider the ‘exclusive deals’ between schools and certain outlets because they are significantly raising the cost of the uniform. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that parents were paying as much as £10 extra per item by buying from the school’s appointed supplier.
Instead, they urged schools to ensure competition between suppliers by using more than one outlet for the uniform essentials. Further it asked that other suppliers get involved with the market and approach schools about selling their uniforms while schools should then be more receptive to them.
Retailers such as Tesco, Aldi and ASDA all offer similar school uniform clothing at a much lower price than specialists outlets. And the cost of these items are much more manageable, especially for families who are on a low income.
The Schoolwear Association hit back by saying that the first priority with uniform is that it should be good quality and withstand being worn for up to ten hours a day. Their argument is that cheaper, poorer quality clothing cannot do this and may also not be made in environmentally sustainable ways.
The association has also lobbied the government to get VAT removed from school uniforms or to bring in a voucher scheme in line with childcare vouchers that can help with the costs.
What’s the point of school uniforms?
For others, the problem with school informs isn’t so much their cost but that they exist at all. To them, they question what the point of school uniforms are and whether any school should still make all pupils wear exactly the same clothing.
Those in favour of the uniform argue that it creates a sense of identity and pride in the establishment as well as creating a sense of unity between pupils. Others see it as a crucial step to teach children the importance of their appearance, being smart and well-groomed for important occasions such as going to work. This may help them when they get a job if it has a uniform or dress code.
Does it stop bullying and improve behaviour?
In the USA, where the majority of schools do not have a uniform policy, there is an estimated 160,000 kids who miss school each day for fear of attack or intimidation by other students. How much of this is linked to what they wear is unknown but can be a factor – if a poorer family cannot afford the latest designer gear, then the child could be ridiculed or outcast by those who can.
Other times children can be bullied for their or their parents’ choice of clothing when there is no uniform code in place. They may wear what they like but are viewed as ‘weird’ by others who then bully them for not fitting in with their own ideals. So it can be argued that a school uniform can reduce bullying or at least remove one reason for it.
Schools that have introduced strict uniform codes say that they have noticed improved behaviour in students. They believe that a sense of pride in their school helps to improve behaviour while distractions about what they are wearing is removed.
Some even believe that results at school can be improved by a school uniform. This is because children don’t spend their time worrying about what they are wearing, if it is trendy enough or if they fit in with the people they want to impress. Their time can be spent instead on concentrating on their classroom work.
Others argue with this idea, saying that the quality of the teaching is what makes the difference in results, not what the kids are wearing to class. The Conservative government have long believed that a uniform has a big impact on the performance of schools. Yet some schools who have stepped out of line and abolished the school uniform have reported no dramatic problems.
As one school in Devon said, teachers were spending more time telling students to tuck in their shirts or dealing with uniform problems that teaching. By removing the uniform, the focus went back to lessons and was less about distractions.
Other schools who dispatched with the uniform disagreed with the notion that being without a uniform leads to lower school pride and moral. One school in Derbyshire consistently comes top of the ratings from Ofsted and has not had a uniform policy for many years.
Where to buy cheap school uniforms
For the majority of parents, the school uniform debate is somewhat irrelevant – their children’s schools have the policy so they need to pick up the uniforms. But where are the best places to buy cheap school uniforms for the coming term?
The supermarkets are a good bet and Morrison’s has an all-year round deal with uniforms starting from £7. These include two polo shirts, a sweatshirt, skirt, two shorts, summer dress and two trousers for the girls while Aldi have uniforms from £3.44 for aged 4-11 year olds.
There are also vouchers available for the Tesco F&F range and for the ASDA George range while big names such as Debenhams have sales on their school ranges currently. Even online giant Amazon has started to offer school uniforms including items such as jackets and coats for the coming winter as well. Here are some discounts, deals and offers;