BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Education  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 00:58 GMT
'My struggle to buy school uniforms'
Pat remains convinced of the need for school uniforms
As research suggests the cost of school uniform is becoming prohibitive for a growing number of families, one mother tells BBC News Online's Katherine Sellgren about her struggle to afford uniforms for the four school-age children in her care.

Pat Thomas lives in a council house in Hackney, east London.

Her husband claims income support and she is not able to work as she is the principal carer for her four grandsons, aged between one and seven, and four of her own children.

Three of the children are at primary school and need a uniform and gym kit - and her daughter Khashana, 6, needs a dress in the summer.


I really found it difficult when Kingsley started secondary school in September

Pat Thomas
"I was so lucky two years ago - I went to a church fete and I couldn't believe my luck. I bought two dresses for a pound each and they were brand new," says Pat.

Pat always keeps an eagle-eyed watch for bargains like this, as she is determined that her children should turn up to school in the correct dress.

"They all go to schools which are very strict about uniform and they could get picked on if they're wearing the wrong clothes, which is not nice.

"You don't want to leave the child out and make them feel like the odd one out.

"But it means sacrifices, like cutting out some outings and treats."

Secondary step

Her struggle to keep the children in the right clothes went up a gear last September, when her son, Kingsley started at secondary school.

The cost of his uniform - excluding his sports kit - came to 134.72.

infographic
The cost of Kingsley's uniform comes to 134.72
"Primary school uniforms tend to be cheaper and you can get away with a bit more, but there's more to buy for secondary school."

Pat gets vouchers from Hackney Council of 30 every two years for each child, but found this insignificant when buying Kingsley's uniform.

"That's nothing, believe me. I really found it difficult when Kingsley started secondary school in September.

"It was a bomb - it really wiped me out last year.

"His blazer alone was 40 and I had to get it from a specific shop so I couldn't shop around for the cheapest."

In the end Pat bought the blazer with the help of her father.

Problem solved - at least until Kingsley grows out of it and needs the next size up.

"The kids do suffer because sometimes I buy things two sizes too big and they say 'Mum, I look silly'," says Pat.

The great leveller

Yet despite the cost of uniforms and the constant struggle to pay for them, Pat is a firm believer in the principle of school uniform.

"I strongly believe in school uniform," she says.

"It means that when you put children from poor families and better-off families together, the children won't be able to identify themselves as different to the others.

"It puts everyone on the same level."

For this reason Pat deliberately avoided "non-uniform" schools.

"If Kingsley went to a school where there was no uniform, he may have started saying my friends have got this and that.

"He's really sweet sometimes - he'll say 'Mum these football boots are nice, but I know you can't afford them'.

"But deep down I really wish I could afford to get them for him."

See also:

27 Feb 02 | Education
11 Jan 01 | Education
10 May 00 | Education
Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Education stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes