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 the whole of Scotland.
For parents across Scotland the last week of the summer holidays can be a fraught time, according to the anti-poverty campaigners.
As well as the usual worries about childcare and keeping the children entertained, many parents are struggling to cover the cost of school uniform and other essential items such as school bags, shoes, stationary and sport equipment.
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 income 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 that 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 the dress code.
“Parents are paying hundreds of pounds for school uniforms, with many having to cut back on essentials in order to afford them,” she said. “Current policy risks dividing pupils into the haves and have-nots. We hope Scottish Government will act to ensure equal treatment for all our children.”
Elaine Downie, community development officer for the Poverty Truth Commission, stated: “Many young people are starting with high levels of anxiety as they are stigmatised and bullied for the clothes they wear. The Poverty Truth Commission calls on the Scottish Government to use its new power to set a minimum clothing grant for the whole of Scotland -–and to talk to and work with parents and young people on low incomes as it sets it.”
Parents, pupils and teachers across Scotland have shared their experiences of how difficult it can be to afford school uniform.
One parent said: “I wasn’t sure at first if I could afford to send all my children back to school on the right day because of the cost of school uniforms and the school being so strict about them wearing it.
“The School Clothing Grant of £47.50 goes into your account and you start to panic. How am I going to buy a school uniform with that? I like the policy of a full uniform including a blazer and black shoes. What I don’t like is the price tag.
“The £30 blazer has to be paid for before the end of term – there was an option of buying form the internet but that involved a £5 delivery charge.”
A pupil reported getting into trouble for not wearing the correct uniform, saying: “I used to be sent home every day for wearing shoes with some blue in them instead of completely black, until my mum could afford a new pair.”
And a teacher stated: “A lot of our children don’t have indoor shoes, or if they do have them, they’re falling apart. They’re a danger, actually, they’re too small, you see their feet hanging out the back of them.”
How does your local authority compare?
Child Poverty Action Group (Scotland) obtained clothing grant data from local authorities in June or July this year:
Aberdeen City £60; Aberdeenshire £50; Angus £20; Argyll and Bute £50; Clackmannanshire £55; Dumfries and Galloway £80; Dundee £81; East Ayrshire £75; East Dunbartonshire £50; East Lothian £65; East Renfrewshire £50; Edinburgh £50; Eilean Siar £65; Falkirk £50; Fife £55; Glasgow City £47; Highland £81; Inverclyde £90; Midlothian £65; Moray £45; North Ayrshire £40; North Lanarkshire £70; Orkney Islands £55; Perth and Kinross £50; Renfrewshire £55; Scottish Borders £45; Shetland Islands £50; South Ayrshire £50; South Lanarkshire £50; Stirling £50; West Dunbartonshire £100; West Lothian £110.