Hull parents shop smart in the scramble for new school uniforms
SCHOOLS have just started back – and that means the annual scramble for uniforms and equipment.
Julie Watson, of west Hull, is typical of many working mums and does not look forward to September much.
She estimates she has spent around £125 on uniform and other bits and bobs for daughter Jamie, who started at Sirius Academy in Anlaby Park Road South, west Hull, this week.
But Julie is a believer in school uniform, which she thinks makes pupils feel part of a community, and says bargains can be found by shopping around.
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She said: "It wasn't as bad as I expected. The most expensive item was the blazer with badge, which set me back £22.99 from Rawcliffes in Paragon Street.
"But a lot of other items were bought from some of the larger supermarkets."
Sports coach Mrs Watson, who lives with her family off Hessle High Road, saved for months to afford the uniform.
"It can be expensive and some families do struggle," she said. "But I find if you save it is not so bad. To me, that's what family allowance is for. I've been putting a bit away each month."
Mrs Watson says she was able to afford high quality shoes and trainers for Jamie by making savings elsewhere.
"I believe good shoes are very important so we went to Clarks," she said.
"But we bought items such as plain white shirts and shirts very cheaply from Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's."
Mrs Watson says her daughter was pleased with her smart new uniform too.
She said: "Jamie spent last week trying it all on, making sure she looked nice in it.
"She came home after her first day so happy. She told me she really feels part of the Sirius crowd, so I am really pleased.
"I agree with the principle behind school uniform. It means all the children look the same and prevents bullying, which could stop learning.
"I am sure it would be more expensive having to buy a number of different outfits if Sirius didn't have a uniform."
John Sherwood, vice-principal of Sirius Academy, said the blazer and tie are the only compulsory branded items.
"We are trying to improve students' attitude to learning and our uniform is a fundamental part of that process," he said.
"If students look and feel smart, they will show greater respect to each other, their teachers and the school building."
However, Mr Sherwood stressed financial help was freely available for parents struggling to make ends meet.
"When their children enrolled, the local education authority gave parents an application form for a mean-tested grant designed to help cover the cost of a school uniform," he said.
"As a school, we also offer financial support. This is done on a case-by-case basis."
Stewart Edgell, head of Endeavour High School in Beverley Road, city centre, shares the view uniforms are an integral part of creating the right environment.
"In most cases, a uniform is much cheaper than other clothing – shirts and trousers particularly so," he said.
"It also encourages children to take pride in their personal appearance which is particularly important in today's job market.
"A uniform is worn as a badge of membership of a community that is the school and avoids placing some children in a position of not feeling as smart as others.
"This is often the case where no uniform is required and those pupils who have parents with deeper pockets are able to wear more expensive, branded, fashion clothing.
"Uniforms also reinforce the high expectations we have of our pupils."
Jill Attwood's daughter Hannah, 11, followed in the footsteps of her sisters, Amy, 20, and Rachel, 19, and brother, Brian, 16, by walking through the gates of Endeavour for the first time this week. Hannah got her uniform for free.
Mrs Attwood, of Clarendon Street, west Hull, said: "The school has decided to give Year 7 pupils a free blazer, tie, and PE top.
"It really has helped me. Over the years, I have spent so much money on school uniforms so it was nice to get a freebie."
Angela Martinson, head of Newland School for Girls in west Hull, says schools have a fine balance to strike.
"On the one hand, we want our girls to look smart but, on the other, the uniform needs to be affordable," she said. "Wherever possible, we like to give parents a choice.
"So the school sells items, such as a navy blue sweatshirt with our logo on.
"But we make it clear to our parents that their child can wear a cheaper, plain alternative that is available at many large supermarkets."
Mrs Martinson said the school is planning a review of its uniform policy.
"Next year, we are moving into our new building and we plan to use the opportunity to review our school uniform," she said.
"Blazers are lovely and that is an option. But they are expensive. We will be asking for parents' views."