Cost of ‘school kit’ is too much say campaigners

Many families struggle to find the cash to kit their kids out for school
Many families struggle to find the cash to kit their kids out for school

Anti-poverty campaigners are warning families are ending up in debt to kit out their kids for school.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, the Poverty Truth Commission and One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) have taken to social media to ask parents to share their views on what it really costs to get a child suited, booted and ready to return to school.

They are also asking parents to write to their MSPs, highlighting the need for a minimum school clothing grant for all of Scotland.

Research suggests that clothing a child for school can cost up to £129.50 – even when shopping at supermarkets and bargain stores.

While parents on the lowest incomes can receive some help by way of a school clothing grant from their local authority, in many areas the grant available is nowhere near enough to cover even the most basic items.

The grants vary hugely from one area to the next, ranging from just £20 in Angus to £110 in West Lothian.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government gained the power to introduce a minimum school clothing grant through an amendment to the Education (Scotland) Act 2016.

John Dickie, director of CPAG, said: “Though the responsibility to ensure school clothing grants are adequate ultimately lies with local authorities, the Scottish Government has a golden opportunity to set a minimum rate for the whole of Scotland, helping to ensure every child can return to school feeling comfortable, confident and ready to learn.

“If the government is serious about closing the attainment gap, it is small but significant measures like this that can make all the difference.”

Satwat Rehman, head of OPFS, added the cost of school uniforms was leaving many children in low income families at risk of bullying and embarrassment because they were being sent to school in ill-fitting clothes or in clothes which didn’t meet dress codes.

“Current policy risks dividing pupils into the haves and have-nots,” she said. “We hope Scottish Government will act to ensure equal treatment for all our children.”

Elaine Downie, community development officer for the Poverty Truth Commission, added: “Many young people are starting with high levels of anxiety as they are stigmatised and bullied for the clothes they wear. We call on the Scottish Government to use its new power to set a minimum clothing grant for the whole of Scotland.”