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FOCUS: Are school uniforms too expensive?

FOCUS: Are school uniforms too expensive?

Friday 17 March 2023

FOCUS: Are school uniforms too expensive?

Friday 17 March 2023


A review of the island's school uniforms market is due to be completed next month, amid concerns from parents about having to spend hundreds of pounds on compulsory items as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

The island's competition watchdog, the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority (JCRA), started its review last year, having noted that school uniforms can be a significant source of household expenditure.

It comes as islanders are having to deal with unprecedented rises in the cost of living.

As of December 2022, inflation was running at 12.7%, the biggest rise since the early 1980s.

Meanwhile, the prices of clothing and footwear alone rose by just over 5%. 

One parent, Alice, whose children attend Victoria College Prep and Trinity School, said of purchasing a uniform for her son: "When he first started as a new pupil, I wanted him to be in the all the smart stuff, so I came in with a big list of all the bits we needed and it ended up costing about £600." 

Alice mentioned that the uniform specific "bumblebee" items that are mandatory at Victoria College Prep, such as blazers and caps, are particularly expensive and, unlike trousers or shirts, cannot be found cheaper online. 

Rising_retail_costs.jpeg

Pictured: Rising retail costs, including a 5% rise in clothing and footwear costs.

And the expense is not just limited to the island's fee-paying schools.

Karen Goncalves, whose son attends Grainville, commented: "Something like a blazer is upwards of £50. It does cost a fortune. If you go and buy two shirts, two pairs of trousers, everything, you'll end up spending £200." 

The JCRA began its market study on school uniforms in December. That research will continue until April when the JCRA will present its findings and make its recommendations.

The market for school uniforms was last reviewed in 2011, resulting in guidance for schools and other stakeholders on how to improve the competitive process for the benefit of consumers. 

So far, the Authority says its study has received a lot of support from local retailers and from wholesale suppliers.

It has also been informed by a survey of uniform policy across the island's schools with the aim of determining what parameters are in place for those who might be struggling. 90% of schools have responded so far.

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Pictured: Over 90% of schools have responded to the JCRA's survey on school uniform policy. 

Alice was positive about the measures taken by schools to help people cope with the cost of school uniforms. 

She said: "At Vic Prep, they've got a really good second hand uniform shop. Trinity School is the same, you can get things that are £1 an item in there.

"There's no stigma associated with getting your things from the second-hand shop, none at all, all the kids look the same. Because of school uniforms being so expensive, it's more than ok."

She also added that an expensive uniform is better than the alternative: "If they weren't in school uniform, it would cost far far more. They would want to look completely different every day!" 

However, Karen was not aware of a second-hand option at Grainville and, even if there was, she noted that "the kids are always so particular about what they wear." 

This is one of the most extensive market studies the JCRA has carried out, and is comparable in scale to the Freight logistics market study undertaken in 2021. 

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Pictured: The JCRA have identified school uniforms as a potential cause of significant household expenditure.

At the time of the survey's launch, Education Minister Deputy Inna Gardiner said she had "spoken to many parents who are concerned about the cost of school uniforms, especially given the increased cost of living."

“While individual schools and organisations are finding ways to support parents, it’s important that we look at the broader picture. I look forward to reading the final study once it is prepared and anticipate that we will find new ways to support families," she said.

Tim Ringsdore, JCRA's Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Consumers are facing additional expenditure pressures as a result of inflationary pressure on the cost of living.

"School uniforms can pose a significant expense on household expenditure, particularly where there is multiple, compulsory, or ‘crested’ items of uniform.

"We feel this study is necessary and timely.”

More information about the market study can be found here.

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Comments

Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

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Posted by Jon Jon on
Certainly these school outlets mark up is quite high, schools though should take on the uniforms themselves and cut out the middle man.Instead of the middle man taking a high cut it would go to the school instead, honestly parents are ripped off as the kids need the kit!
Posted by Isabel Jeune on
This is where we miss BHS. They had a fantastic school shop, all very reasonably priced. We need another shop like that!
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