Belfast Telegraph

School supplies are not status symbols

Editor's Viewpoint

The cost of equipping a child for school nowadays is proving a burden for many parents, in these straitened times. A recent survey has shown that the average cost of a school uniform, plus stationery and other items, is now over £550. For parents with two or three children to equip, the cost can be a major factor in the already stretched family budget.

Part of the high spending includes, for many children, the use of a smartphone, and it is also staggering to realise that nowadays almost half the pupils take such gadgets with them to school.

It could be argued that a smartphone is a luxury rather than a necessity, but there is enormous peer pressure on children not to be out of step with the others.

Perhaps one important lesson even before children set off for school is to be told that they cannot have everything, but often that is easier said than done.

However, there is financial pressure in providing some of the ordinary equipment for modern schoolchildren, and that includes uniforms, which vary greatly in price.

This is partly because some schools set particular standards, and they also recommend certain suppliers. At worst this can lead to the creation of expensive cartels, and a situation where parents have little choice but to pay up.

Clearly something needs to be done to try to bring down the cost of essential items, including school uniforms. There is a need for those involved in education at all levels to devise a system where children can be equipped at a reasonable price.

People should ask is it necessary, for example, that all clothing should be bought from recommended suppliers. It might make more sense if items like shirts were purchased from good quality supermarkets, to help lower the costs.

No doubt the schools and the suppliers are aware of the problem, and must do all they can to help. Uniforms and other items may well be necessary, but they should not become status symbols. That should be the main lesson for everyone.

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