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Parents forced to spend hundreds on school uniform

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Parents are still being forced to spend hundreds of pounds on school uniform despite rules meant to lower the costs.
The Children's Society claims parents spend on average £422 a year on secondary and £287 on primary uniforms.
Some school rules that required parents to buy costlier branded items were partly to blame, it said. One mum told the BBC constantly replacing damaged clothing made it even more expensive.
The government says it is working to ensure "uniform costs are reasonable".
"I find it difficult," mother-of-one Kirsty told the BBC. "You have to repeatedly buy it when they come home with pen on their clothes."
The Children's Society polled 2,000 parents across the UK in May about their annual uniform costs.
It says parents of secondary school children face the highest expenses for various clothing items, including:
Under changes to the Education Act last year, schools in England are meant to be helping cut costs for parents. That could be by promoting cheaper second-hand uniform options or removing unnecessary branded items from their uniform lists.
However, 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 addition, 45% of parents reported that their school uniform policies had still not been updated.
Natalie runs the Reloved Clothing bank in Hartlepool, providing pre-worn uniforms free to people struggling with the costs.
Since its launch 11 months ago it has supported more than 3,000 families and demand is "only getting bigger" as the cost of living soars.
"A lot of people find the cost of uniforms a barrier to education," she told the BBC.
"If a child goes in and they don't have that uniform, it creates stigma. So for me as a parent to alleviate that stigma is a big thing."
Kirsty, 38, who has used the uniform bank for for her eight-year-old son, says it has been a massive help.
"There are a lot of things going up, and the price of uniforms definitely adds to it," she told the BBC.
"People who have more than one child, their costs are going to be even higher."
Mark Russell, chief executive of The Children's Society, said it was "alarming" that parents were still having to spend "exorbitant" amounts on school uniforms.
"With inflation and the cost of living eating into family budgets, we are disappointed that the affordability of school uniforms remains a significant financial burden for many families.
"While some schools have made commendable changes to reduce costs, this positive trend is still not widespread enough. We urge parents who struggle with the affordability of school uniforms to contact the school and the school governors," Mr Russell said.
Back in 2020 the charity found that parents of secondary school pupils were spending significantly less on uniform, at £337 a year on average. Parents of primary schools kids were spending slightly more, at £315.
Not being able to afford the right school uniform could impact children's wellbeing, the charity warned.
In its latest survey, 22% of parents reported their child had been put in detention for breaking uniform rules due to being unable to afford the right clothing.
One in eight had been placed in isolation, while some had even been excluded.
Mike Amesbury, the Labour MP who introduced the Private Member's Bill on school uniform costs that became law, said: "It appears that the rules on branded items aren't clear enough so can be interpreted differently by schools, or the message isn't getting through – so I would urge the Department for Education to do more so schools make these important changes."
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said it strongly encourages schools to have a uniform, as it can contribute to the ethos of a school.
They added that statutory guidance came into effect this academic year "and we expect all schools to be compliant by September 2023".
"We will continue to work with responsible bodies and schools to ensure the guidance is followed and uniform policies are reasonable," the spokesperson said.
Check if your school or PTA (Parent Teacher Association) has a second-hand selling group, where you may be able to pick up some pre-loved items.
Many school uniform products are sold in multipacks. This might be good value for basic white polo shirts that kids might wear fresh each day, but you may not need so many sets of school trousers or skirts. Always work out the price per item to see if you'll save by buying more.
Sometimes it doesn't harm to buy uniform in the next size up, especially if it's an expensive item such as a blazer.
For these tips and more visit the the Which? website
Have you been affected by uniform costs? Please get in touch by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.
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