A former teacher is warning that parents are going to have to pay ‘financially crippling’ prices for school uniforms.
Gareth Young says that he estimates that kitting out his son will cost him about £400.
Mr Young is a former science teacher at St Ninian’s High School in Douglas and ran for MHK in the Garff constituency in last year’s election.
His son is a pupil at Ramsey Grammar School, which insists on pupils wearing branded school ties and blazers. These are available only from Top2Toe, Parliament Square, Ramsey, and they cost £46.
They also have to buy a number of unbranded clothes, including a white-collared shirt, plain black trousers, plain V-neck jumpers, or plain skirt for girls, plain black V-neck jumpers, plain black or grey socks, plain black flat heeled shoes and, for girls, tights.
The school also tells parents that they must buy a branded PE kit. These include a green-collared T-shirt with school logo, black shorts or skirt with school logo, green and white school PE socks, shin pads, one-piece swimming costume or trunks and a swimming hat.
These are available at Jac Stores in Ramsey and cost £60 and Mr Young has been recommended by other parents to buy two or three of these kits if his child wishes to compete in school teams.
Mr Young was a science teacher for 15 years and was a head of year but only recently realised the severity of the issue.
‘We always knew the costs were relatively high but we never realised just quite how high,’ he said.
The government has addressed this issue on social media, giving parents advice on buying school uniforms.
‘School uniform policy doesn’t require parents to buy “school branded” items.’
This appears to be in contradiction to the stipulations on Ramsey Grammar School’s website, which says that the main uniform has branded items, such as the tie and blazer.
The government also said: ‘Support is available through schools’ hardship funds or endowments.’
Mr Young, who now works for a software development company, said: ‘There is a hardship fund that you are able to access, but in my experience, being able to access this is quite difficult.
‘With the rampant inflation that’s going on at the moment, when you then have an additional £400, even if you’re not on the poverty line, it’s quite difficult to find the money.’
The government also advised parents that: ‘School uniform “swap-shops” may be available for your child’s school.’
Ballakameen High School is one of these schools offering a ‘swap shop’ and are running it in time for the start of the school year, with it being held on September 1 and 2.
Daphne Caine, MHK for Garff, said: ‘Every year during the school holidays I hear from constituents who struggle with the high cost of school uniform. People are not always comfortable with contacting the school to admit they are feeling the pinch and it would be better if there was a general move towards making it easier to hand on uniform.’
Mrs Caine also offered another solution towards this persistent problem.
‘Perhaps school uniform vouchers could work for people to spend at designated local shops providing blazers and PE kits – similar to the summer lunch vouchers provided to those most in need in previous years.’
In a response, Education Minister Julie Edge told Mr Young by email: ‘Schools are mindful of the financial burden that uniforms can place upon families.
‘The department currently has a uniform policy which states that “it is important that uniform is affordable to all and particular attention should be given to the necessity for school-branded items, which commonly attract a higher cost than unbranded articles of clothing”.
‘Schools use this as a basis when creating their own uniform policy.’
We asked Ms Edge for further comment but she did not respond by the time we went to press.
However, speaking to Tynwald about this issue in July, Ms Edge said: ‘What we have done as a department is discussed with our head teachers and made sure they are having a uniform policy that is affordable to families.’