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Published 19 April 2021

Uniform Mistakes: The costs of going back to school

School uniform costs are a source of financial and emotional stress for families living on a low-income across the UK. In this rapid-response report, we set out findings from our research with over 100 parents and carers who all report struggling to get by.

Through the Nuffield Foundation funded Covid Realities research programme, parents have been working in partnership with researchers to document their experiences of everyday life in the pandemic, sharing diary entries online and taking part in online activities and virtual discussion groups. This report focuses on the cost of school uniforms; it sets out how, for many families, uniforms represent a financial burden that tip precariously balanced budgets firmly into the red. This is the case at any time, but especially in Covid times, when mechanisms for managing on a low-income have all too often become impossible. In the case of school uniforms, school uniform banks have become widely depleted or unavailable, charity shops have closed, and getting hand-me-downs from friends and family has been made widely impossible by lockdown restrictions.

This report describes families’ experiences and provides recommendations for policy change. We conclude by setting out best practice for schools on uniform, while also calling on the government to urgently target families with children for more financial support.

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