School uniforms for parents in Hertfordshire can cost in excess of £350 - council pledges to write to headteachers to urge them to keep costs down
Council says it must 'urgently' speak up for children and families, many of whom have suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic
The high cost of school uniforms was highlighted at a meeting of the county council - with councillors pointing to costs in excess of £350 per child.
As the summer term ends parents are starting to kit their children out with uniforms, sportswear and other items of equipment for the next academic year.
And at a meeting of Hertfordshire County Council on Tuesday (July 20), it was widely acknowledged that the cost to parents can be in excess of £350.
The overall cost of school uniforms, the inclusion of more expensive items with school logos and the use of single stockists were all among the issues raised by councillors.
And it was agreed that executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Terry Douris would write to headteachers in the autumn.
In that letter he will urge them to review their school uniform policies and to allow generic uniforms, especially for sport.
He will also urge them not to change their uniform too often and to adopt a 'commonsense' approach to uniform policy.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Douris said there was no reason why schools should insist that all items of uniform were embroidered with the school emblem.
And he also pointed to the disparity in prices of uniform items - even when they came from the same suppliers.
He highlighted sweatshirts - from the same supplier - that were sold to parents at one school for £9.99 and at another for £10.99.
And he said: "I do believe there's probably, although I can't be sure of this, an element of arrangement between schools and suppliers . . what they will charge to parents ultimately. And that to me, doesn't actually seem fair."
Initially the issue had been raised in a motion tabled by Labour Cllr Tina Bhartwas - although the agreed motion was amended by Conservative Cllr Douris and not backed by the Labour or Liberal Democrat groups.
Proposing the initial motion, she pointed to "significant" uniform costs - revealing that she had had to pay £26 for school skirts, with the design changing twice when she was a pupil.
She pointed to the financial pressures parents were facing and the high cost of items branded with school logos and house colours, as well as the lack of competition.
The initial motion had called for Cllr Douris to write to headteachers immediately - rather than in the autumn.
And Labour group leader Cllr Judi Billing had pushed for action now.
"These schools are not all our schools, we know that - but they are all our children," she said.
"And therefore we must urgently speak up for them and their families, who have suffered hugely, many of them, through the pandemic."
The county council has allocated £445,000 from the local support grant to assist families to purchase school uniforms.