Lanarkshire MSP raises concerns over school uniform affordability

A Lanarkshire MSP is calling for national guidelines to be introduced to ensure school uniforms are affordable for families.

Fulton MacGregor led a Scottish Parliament debate on uniform poverty, highlighting the fact that a fifth of secondary schools across Scotland specify the use of exclusive suppliers.

He has instead called for costs to be reduced as far as possible, including with the use of generic items of clothing

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The Coatbridge and Chryston representative also praised the work of constituency organisation Cool School Uniforms in collecting and redistributing uniforms for local pupils.

Now volunteers from the group will share their experience to help advise government officials on plans to introduce the guidance.

Mr MacGregor told Lanarkshire Live: “This isn’t a new issue.

“I have been working with Cool School Uniforms for some years now discussing the problems parents and carers face when it comes to affording school clothing.

“So many schools now demand specific badges, colours and styles for their uniforms which aren’t widely available; and in a time of austerity, it’s becoming more difficult for parents and carers to ensure they have the cash to make sure young people are kitted out, even with uniform grants in place.

The MSP worked with Aberdeen University expert Dr Rachel Shanks on the motion presented to Holyrood, and noted that uniform affordability is to be brought in next year in England.

He said: “Uniform can be one of the most significant school costs for parents.

“I have been working with Cool School Uniforms for some years now, discussing the problems parents and carers in my constituency often face in relation to affordability.

“While I think school pride is important, we need to make sure nobody is being left behind.

“Just as we have food banks across the country, so too we have uniform banks. We must do more as part of a range of measures to tackle child poverty in this country.

“I’m delighted the government has committed to introducing statutory guidance and to encouraging the increased use of generic uniforms – however, I urge the government to take those actions as soon as possible.

Meghan Gallacher, the Central Scotland MSP, was among those contributing to the Holyrood debate and highlighted research which found “families across the UK pay, on average, £337 per year for uniforms for each secondary school child – more than three times what parents think is a reasonable cost”.

Children’s minister Claire Haughey thanked Mr MacGregor for raising the issue and Cool School Uniforms for its work.

She said: “We know some families are sacrificing essentials including heating, food and rent so that their children can participate fully at school. That cannot be right.

“During this parliamentary term we will introduce statutory guidance for schools, which will lead to an increase in use of generic items of uniform and a reduction in costs for families.

School clothing grants in North Lanarkshire are £140 for primary pupils and £150 for those at secondary, while the authority introduced a clothing and footwear grant for nursery youngsters earlier this year, becoming “the first council in the UK” to do so.

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