Back-to-school cost 'breaking bank'
Going back to school is breaking the bank for some families, a charity has warned.
Family Action, which supports disadvantaged families, said for some families the basic costs of going back to school accounted for up to 40% of their monthly income.
The charity said a rise in academies and free schools, along with cuts to local authority assistance, could mean that going back to school would break the bank for many families.
Research carried out by Family Action using a sample of schools in Hackney, north London, and a selection of branded and non-branded uniform and back-to-school items showed that uniform costs could account for up to two-fifths of a family's income in August.
And even when families spread the costs over two months they face having to spend up to a fifth of their disposable income on preparing their child for the start of term in September, the charity warned.
Family Action said its grants department still receives requests for financial help towards the cost of uniforms from the poorest families as they struggle to equip their children with the basics for school.
It claimed evidence was emerging that uniform costs were increasing with more academies than ever before and the possibility that free schools would adopt expensive new uniform policies which would price out lower-income parents.
The charity called on local authorities to make sure there are more grants schemes for families on low incomes to help ease the pressure on family finances of back-to-school costs. It said devolved budgets for schools should include a ring-fenced amount for uniform grant schemes for the poorest pupils.
The charity also called on the Government and academy and free school governors to adopt fair uniform policies, such as keeping branded items and the number of compulsory items required to a minimum; and making uniform lists available as early as possible so parents can start planning, saving and buying earlier.
It also said uniform should be offered at cost price from the school shop, and uniform and equipment banks should be set up so poorer pupils can buy items at reduced rate or be given them free.