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Keep Wales’ School Uniform Grant

April 5th 2018

As news breaks that Wales’ poorest children are to lose help with essential school uniforms, Victoria Winckler says the grant should be reinstated.

BBC Wales has revealed that the Welsh Government plans to scrap the School Uniform Grant in 2018/19.  The grant of £105 was offered to parents of children receiving free school meals when they enter secondary school. Although it was far from perfect, as we have previously pointed out, it nevertheless provided much-needed help to low-income families – BBC Wales says some 5,500 children benefited.

School uniforms can be eye-wateringly expensive.

According to a Children’s Society report in Teaching Times, the typical  annual cost of secondary school uniform is £316.  The Welsh Government argues that the cost of uniforms has fallen. It may or may not have done – but low income families still face a big chunk of expenditure even if a uniform now costs £300 not £316. A drop in price is no reason to remove support altogether.

Schools are not following guidance

The Welsh Government has long encouraged schools to adopt low-cost uniforms, for example by foregoing blazers and items with logos on them.

Many have yet to head that advice. I’ve found many schools in Wales which require pupils to wear £36 blazers with logos or in colours – e.g. green – that are not stocked in supermarkets. Then there’s the £20 logo-ed pullovers, as well as trousers in specific shades of grey, shirts with logos on the collars and of course the costly sports kit.

It’s all about priorities

I fully recognise the cuts in the Welsh Government’s budget and the growing demand on services. But as I said in my previous post about school dinners,  what is cut and who is affected are matters of priority.

At the same time as saving £700,000 by axing the uniform grant, the Welsh Government has increased the support given to students in higher education, spent £27.5 million on grants to the arts, has just awarded 12 grants to organisations to celebrate a centenary of suffrage, and gives sums it won’t reveal to businesses.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that the poorest working-age families with children will have seen their incomes fall by nearly 20% between 2015 and 2020.  That’s a huge hit to people who already very hard up.

School uniform grants aren’t a solution to the poverty that affects one in three of Wales’ children. But they did help more than 5,000 pupils to wear kit that fit, was within the rules and helped their families to juggle incredibly tight budgets.

Is now the time to withdraw this grant?

Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation. Please help us to campaign against this cut with a donation, no matter how modest – here

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