Uniform costs quoted by the charity don’t tally with recent research from the schoolwear industry body

Matthew Easter of the Schoolwear Association has given a strong rebuttal to the uniform costs reported by the Children’s Society earlier this week.

On Tuesday 27 June, the UK children’s charity said analysis of a poll of 2,000 parents from across the UK found that parents and carers of secondary school children were spending on average £422 a year on uniform, and around £287 for primary school children. The charity said this was in part due to the “the prevalence of branded items that must be purchased from specialist shops, rather than the more affordable options available at supermarkets or high street chains”.

However, a survey of school uniform suppliers and retailers by the Schoolwear Association, which was also published in June, found that the average cost of compulsory secondary uniform and sportswear items in England in 2023 is £96.24 per pupil. The survey was carried out with Schoolwear Association’s members between February and April 2023, which the association says covers 851 secondary schools, or 25% of all secondary schools in the UK.

Commenting on the discrepancy in the figures between the two bodies, chair Matthew Easter said: “It’s difficult to comment further without full access to the Children’s Society data, but from the information that has been provided publicly it appears that several of the items in the cost breakdown are priced higher than we would recognise based on our own retail price data, and others we would not classify as uniform items because they are either not typically specified by schools (eg coats and bags) and/or worn both in and outside of school (eg sports shoes).”

“What we can say is that we are in a unique position to comment on uniform costs as our members supply uniform across the UK and have recently completed our annual survey of compulsory uniform costs in state secondary schools, which this year represents around 850 schools and 850,000 pupils.”

While noting that non-compulsory items will also need to be purchased, such as shirts, trousers and skirts, Matthew pointed out that these are available across multiple retail channels (such as supermarkets) and that even when these are included, he believed the cost is still “significantly lower” than those quoted by the charity.

“It’s also really important to highlight that compulsory uniform items are not rebought annually – a tie will last the entire time a pupil is at school and a blazer is only replaced on average 2.4 times during a secondary school career,” he added. “Again, we can confidently quote these data as they are based on actual figures from our members.”

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