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Schools should ditch branded uniform to help families during cost of living crisis, says union leader

Schools should ditch branding on uniforms to help families cut unnecessary spending during the cost of living crisis, the leader of a major teaching union has said.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said pupils should be required to wear clothes featuring school logos only on the most “visible” parts of uniform such as blazers.

“If I was a head now, I think I would be saying to governors that the days of when we had branding on the shirt, jumper and on the rugby items – I am not sure we need that because I think that social attitudes have moved away from that,” he told the BBC.

“Let’s have something on the most visible parts of the uniform. I think that is what I would be doing.”

Mr Barton said the move would signal a recognition that children should be treated equally “irrespective of background”, but also that “the cost of living means that having logos on every item pushes up the price”.

Research published by The Children’s Society charity in June found parents are still being forced to spend “alarming amounts” on school uniform despite changes introduced last year aimed at reducing costs for families.

It claimed parents spend £422 on average on uniform each year for children in secondary school and £287 on uniforms for children in primary school.

The charity, which surveyed 2,000 parents from across the UK in May, said the high costs are partly down to some schools requiring uniforms that can only be found in specialist shops rather than supermarkets or high-street chains.

It comes despite the Government rolling out new laws last year to minimise the cost of uniforms for families.

Under changes to the Education Act, schools in England are required to help cut uniform spending for parents, through measures such as promoting cheaper second-hand uniform options or removing unnecessary branded items from their uniform lists.

But the Children’s Society found pupils were still expected to have an average of three branded items of uniform, while almost a third of secondary school pupils are required to own four to five branded items.

In Northern Ireland, schools are expected to ensure their uniform is available in multiple places rather than from one supplier and uniform grants are available to some pupils with criteria similar to qualifying for free school meals.

In Scotland, school clothing grants are available to some pupils and can be applied for through the local council.

In Wales, families can also apply for a school essentials grant through their local authority.

However, an increasing number of families are turning to “uniform banks” to kit out their children ahead of the new school year next month as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

Gillingham Street Angels, which runs three uniform banks across Kent, said earlier this week that it has seen a 20-fold increase in demand over the last year.

It comes as households continue to feel the pressure of the cost of living crisis, despite economists signalling that the burden has begun to ease as consumer confidence picks up.

Research from FareShare, the UK’s largest hunger and food waste charity, published earlier this week found that 1 in 4 teachers in England brought food into school last term out of concern for the welfare of a child. 

The South West had the highest level of pupil hunger, with 29.4 per cent of teachers bringing in food for children in the region, according to a survey of 9,000 teachers in England.

George Wright, the chief executive of FareShare, which redistributes surplus food to tackle hunger, said: “We still do not have enough food to meet skyrocketing demand, and teachers across the country feel they have no choice but to step in to help hungry children.

“Our teachers should be teaching, not forced to fill the gap because the Government stands by and allows this to happen all the while food goes to waste on farms… A new school term will undoubtedly bring huge demand for our services. We need to see the Government act urgently and show that it takes tackling hunger seriously.” 

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