Opinion: Making schools more affordable

PUBLISHED: 08:30 29 February 2020

West Ham MP Lyn Brown is working with Labour MPs to cut the cost of school uniforms.

West Ham MP Lyn Brown is working with Labour MPs to cut the cost of school uniforms.

Lyn Brown

Many Newham families struggle financially due to low wages, insecure hours, unaffordable rents and bills. This Tory Government will just continue ignoring our problems.

The Labour Party may have lost the last election, but we have not stopped fighting to make things better for the people we serve. One way an MP can make a difference is through a private member's bill. My friend Mike Amesbury, the MP for Weaver Vale in Cheshire, has one scheduled to come to parliament next month. With some luck, and much campaigning, we can introduce a new law to help many, many families.

Mike's bill tackles the cost of school uniforms. Families tell me the cost of uniforms can be shockingly high and simply unaffordable on their budgets. Branded uniforms are often available from just one place. That means the retailer can charge whatever they like. There is no other shop from which they can be bought. Across the UK, uniforms cost a staggering average of £340-a-year for secondary schools and £255 for primaries.

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Families across the country have had to cut back on food or other essentials, because of the cost of school uniforms, likening it to paying for two Christmases: one in December and one before the new school year begins.

Even when families cannot afford uniforms, children can be sent home for not wearing them. No child should be deprived of their right to a good education, nor humiliated in that way.

Mike's bill offers schools guidance on uniform policies. Schools can still say what colour and type of uniform is appropriate, but won't be able to insist parents buy from a single supplier or brand. Unreasonable requirements, such as branded socks costing £15 a pair, will be banned.

Sadly, uniforms aren't the only extra school-day costs affecting our children's life chances. School clubs and educational trips cost families money; as do travel to and from school, equipment for drama and ingredients for cookery lessons. It all adds up.

I'm supporting this new law and working with other Labour MPs on down-to-earth ways to make school more affordable for our families.

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