Academies urged to keep their old uniforms to spare parents an extra bill

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PARENTS are being forced to pay hundreds of pounds for uniforms because schools have converted into academies, council leaders have claimed.

Hundreds of schools are becoming academies each year, and mark the switch with new uniforms, but head teachers and governors need to consider the cost to families, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Conversion to academy status - which means that a school no longer part of a local authority and has freedom over areas such as the curriculum - often means that parents have to replace expensive items like blazers that are still in good condition, the LGA said today.

It suggested that instead of introducing entirely new uniforms, new academies should keep costs to a minimum by using plain blazers that can have badges attached, or ensuring that items such as sports kit and school bags do not have to carry badges.

The LGA estimated that at least 275 schools will convert to academies at the beginning of the new term, while more than 100 are in the process of applying to become an academy.

This means that almost 400 schools could be changing their uniforms, the association suggested. Councillor Nick Forbes, vice-chair of the LGA’s children and young people board said: “Hundreds of schools are becoming academies every year and many choose to mark this change, but head teachers and governing bodies should think about the costs a new uniform can have on mums and dads.

“Parents already do what they can to cut the cost of school uniform, such as buying items of uniform throughout the year, passing clothes between children, shopping around to get the best deal and buying plain items they can sew badges onto, but the introduction of a new uniform can mean families are faced with having to pay hundreds of pounds all at once, to replace clothes which there is nothing wrong with.

“We want to see schools adopting a common sense approach to uniform policies, for example, by keeping to a similar colour scheme and allowing parents to buy new items gradually rather than all at once. Items like a blazer can be expensive, so we’d like to see schools let parents buy plain items they can sew or iron badges onto.”

Another report out today suggests that the richest families are around four times more likely than the poorest to pay for extra-curricular activities such as sport, music and drama.

The study raises concerns that pupils from advantaged homes whose parents can afford to pay for extra coaching and after-school clubs are gaining an “unfair” advantage over their poorer classmates, who are missing out. Education charity The Sutton Trust, which commissioned the study, said it is calling for a proportion of existing government funding designed to boost the academic achievement of disadvantaged children to be handed to low-income families to help them cover the cost of a wide range of activities. The report, based on polls of parents and children, as well as a new analysis of existing government figures, found that overall, 23 per cent of the 2,800 11-16-year-olds questioned said they have received private or home tuition.

A separate analysis of data drawn from the Office for National Statistics’ Living Costs and Food Survey found that more than a third (35 per cent) of the richest households - those earning over £52,000 a year - had paid for extra-curricular activities including crafts, dancing, music, drama, art, sports and languages