By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
More than 200 parents have signed a petition against a Nottinghamshire school’s decision to introduce a new uniform and bring in more compulsory branded items.
Parents at South Nottinghamshire Academy in Radcliffe-on-Trent say they feel like they have been forced to accept the changes without any consultation.
Some families also say the changes are far too expensive at a time when households are struggling with the cost of living crisis including rising fuel, food, and energy bills.
Parents say the new branded uniform will cost £209.80 for girls, which includes a blazer, jumper, tie, skirt, and shorts and £160 for boys.
Among the new compulsory items available on the supplier’s website are logo-branded girls’ trousers at £21, logo-branded skirts at £27.95 and logo-branded boys’ trousers at £19.50.
Parents said old uniform costs would be considerably lower as they could buy a higher number of unbranded items from supermarkets at lower costs.
The school says the change of uniform is needed following problems around skirts and trousers that some pupils were wearing, as well as the introduction of a new school logo.
It is funding the purchase of some new items for existing pupils at the school.
Rob Kemp, 53, has an 11-year-old daughter who will be attending the school in September. He has set up a petition against the changes, which has attracted 250 supporters.
He said: “The Government and laws are clear about school uniform and excessive costs. However, some schools seem to be ignoring the legislation – and ignoring the wishes of parents and carers.
“At this time when everyone is impacted by rising costs and financial pressure, this school [South Nottinghamshire Academy] have decided that they want to force through uniform changes which will mean hundreds of pounds of outlay for parents.
“I want this petition to put parent power into the legislation – with a proper definition of what consultation means.
“You should involve parents in these decisions rather than making a decision and enforcing it.
“Parents have been saying the school should be reducing the cost not increasing it – branded skirts and trousers are completely unnecessary and far too expensive in the current climate.”
Mr Kemp has written to Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi. Other parents have contacted Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards.
Another parent, who did not wish to be named, who has a daughter at the school, added: “I do not believe that the expense of the branded skirt and trousers can be justified in the current economic climate.
“Everyone’s finances are being severely squeezed and we need uniform to be value for money.
“As a parent, I take issue with the move to make drastic changes to uniform items – namely the branded skirt and trousers available from only two suppliers – simply because some pupils are currently wearing inappropriate uniform.”
Dan Philpotts, headteacher of South Nottinghamshire Academy, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It is an exciting time for South Nottinghamshire Academy, with a new building under construction ready for use next year, a new house being introduced from September and a new school logo due to be launched.
“All of this, we hope, will build on the pride we know our students and their families have for their school.
“The school uniform at South Nottinghamshire Academy has remained unchanged for many years.
“School leaders and governors have fully considered the practical, financial, and logistical implications of rolling out a new uniform.
“While the change to uniform has been planned for some time, we do recognise the current squeeze on household budgets due to the cost-of-living crisis.
“For this reason, we have tried to mitigate the impact on families by purchasing a new uniform for every current student.
“We are also providing competitive prices on compulsory school uniform items, in comparison with other local schools; supporting families of new and current students in cases of financial hardship and operating a pre-loved – second hand uniform scheme from September 2022.
“We continue to receive feedback from parents / carers and will keep the new school uniform policy under review.”
A newsletter published on the school’s website also states: “As a consequence of the new school logo and due to some of the issues we are faced with relating to ‘appropriate’ skirts and trousers we will be introducing the new school uniform.
“South Nottinghamshire Academy will purchase a new blazer and either a new school skirt or trousers with logo in readiness for September 2022 for everyone in Year 7 to 10 currently.
“We are looking into the sustainability issues of what happens to old uniform as well as how this is managed at a local level.”
In November, new statutory Government guidance was issued to schools about uniform costs.
It states: “In considering cost, schools will need to think about the total cost of school uniforms, taking into account all items of uniform or clothing parents will need to provide while their child is at the school.
“Schools should keep the use of branded items to a minimum.”