The school uniform rip-off

2:0PM, Sep 24th 2013

A single school hair scrunchie for $7 was too much for one mum

The high cost of uniformity
Image: AAP

There is no legislation that deals specifically with where school uniforms are made or sold in Australia, and with the many added costs associated with schooling, when it comes to the cost of uniforms, are parents being ripped off?

I nearly fell over in David Jones when I spotted a cute little dress by Burberry for a toddler priced at $250. However I feel I am in the lucky situation, of not actually needing to purchase it. With my daughter starting school soon, with uniforms I am not so lucky.

The Australian Department of Education supports the wearing of school uniforms by all students from primary school up and I am expected to pay even though they are of no great quality, or have a designer label attached to them, whatever price my daughter's school hold me to ransom for.

View related gallery: 99 instant ways for your family to save money. Even if you just adapt half-a-dozen of these ideas, you will be saving some serious change.

Even if my child starts at a public school in NSW, a five-year-old's school uniform andessentialmiscellaneous items would cost me a whopping $549, and that is just purchasing one item of each, and not including shoes. I've been wondering if possibly the high cost of these items, is a subtle way to get us parents to drill it into our children to take care of their things at an early age.

Early child-care has taught me however that some teachers are great at encouraging children to put their items of clothing away, so they can easily find them later (or at least I can) but then there are teachers who do not follow this example and it's not my child's fault that shoes, socks, hats, jackets are lost forever as they are worn home by another child never to be seen again. But then I know not to put her in expensive clothes in the first place. She wears clothing that can be easily replaced by a trip to Aldi or even Vinnies.

But many schools have a no hat, no play policy, and the expense of losing one piece of the multitude of uniform items, could cost families a fortune. You can't just pop to the discount store to replace it, if you don't want your child to sit on the fence as their peers play sport, they must weartheschool hat at $15 a pop.

I have heard of some parents paying over $1000 per year on school uniforms and related paraphernalia for just one child. The list seems endless, there is the summer uniform, winter uniform, blouse, socks, shoes, skivvy's, rain jacket, polar fleece jacket, tights, gym shorts, sports uniform, a hat for everyday wear, a hat for sportswear, and then there is the little extras like badges with school emblem, school bag, library bag, rain-coat, painting shirt, headband and even a school uniform scrunchie.

And the quality is no different to the hats and shirts you can get at any discount department store. They are probably made in the same factories in China for $1. But when a single school hair scrunchie cost $7 compared with a pack of 3 from Big W for the same price, that's three times as much.

It is not as hard to imagine as Jack Thompson makes out in his latest commercial for charity: A start in life that over 700,000 children cannot not afford a decent pair of school shoes, when the average pair of Clarke's school shoes cost around $80. Bless them, the 'adopt a child' program designed to help carry young Australians through school, suggest donations of only $10 per week ($520 per year). This would just cover their uniform!

Schools are encouraged to have 'pre-loved' uniforms available to purchase, and if the school does not stock them, they must allocate a retailer nearby. But as I live in what is affectionately known as 'nappy valley', the odds of finding the right-size uniform at the right time is small.

There are suggested way of saving on school uniforms; buying in bulk (although you have to have the cash up front), hand-me-downs, or become a member of The uniform exchange (watch video below), but you'd be one of the lucky ones to find your child's school listed, let alone their size.

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