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Andy Walker

School Uniform rip off

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Schools were urged yesterday to stop ripping off parents to the tune of £45 million a year by operating exclusive-supplier deals for uniforms.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said controversial "price-fixing" deals that prevent less-wealthy parents buying cheaper clothing at supermarkets should be scrapped..

The OFT launched its investigation into the market after complaints from parents about costs and the lack of choice.

What is your school's policy as regards to the purchase of school uniforms?

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We sell ours via local John Lewis. The jumper, having a badge incorporated, is the only item the students have to buy from there.

Still don't like it very much, and would much rather adopt the European no uniform approach. This has less to do with economics than politics, though, ie some measure of forcing square pegs into round holes or similar.

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Here in Tasmania I guess we have gone somewhere between UK and US in that most state schools (not private ones which still demand a school specific and costly uniform) now just require a washable tracksuit type top and/or same coloured collared T-shirt in the school's colour worn with grey or black jeans for both boys and girls. Some schools still have the summer dress for girls but these are also a pretty standard check affair in the choice of a few standard colours and some schools have a printed school badge on the tops. This way all the clothes are stocked by supermarkets or department stores and kids only need to change the top if they change schools. It seems to work reasonably well as it saves kids competing with each other for the fashion stakes and stops well-off kids flouting their affluence but allows them to wear something that's relatively similar to their normal casual wear.

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Schools were urged yesterday to stop ripping off parents to the tune of £45 million a year by operating exclusive-supplier deals for uniforms.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said controversial "price-fixing" deals that prevent less-wealthy parents buying cheaper clothing at supermarkets should be scrapped..

The OFT launched its investigation into the market after complaints from parents about costs and the lack of choice.

I heard a woman being interviewed on the radio who had set up a shop selling cheap versions of school uniforms. She claimed that local schools had put her under pressure to close down. Apparently, they were getting some sort of rake-off from the shop who had been given the right to sell expensive uniforms.

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I heard a woman being interviewed on the radio who had set up a shop selling cheap versions of school uniforms. She claimed that local schools had put her under pressure to close down. Apparently, they were getting some sort of rake-off from the shop who had been given the right to sell expensive uniforms.

In a land where education is undervalued and thus underfunded, I can understand that schools would want to maximise income opportunities. When resources become scarce, behaviour becomes ever less genteel.

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I heard a woman being interviewed on the radio who had set up a shop selling cheap versions of school uniforms. She claimed that local schools had put her under pressure to close down. Apparently, they were getting some sort of rake-off from the shop who had been given the right to sell expensive uniforms.

In a land where education is undervalued and thus underfunded, I can understand that schools would want to maximise income opportunities. When resources become scarce, behaviour becomes ever less genteel.

Scant comfort for the working class family who has to pay £10 more for the PE vest top sporting the school logo compared to a similar product from the local supermarket minus the school logo.

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I went to a grammar school in Harrow (no, not Harrow School!), and the girls' sweater could only be bought from a shop in Devon! Needless to say, the school 'helped' parents by making a bulk order for the extremely over-priced sweaters.

Nowadays we don't have this problem - both our kids go to schools in Sweden. The argument about uniforms helping to avoid the problem of competition between pupils when it comes to clothes doesn't really apply. There was just as much competition when I went to school … but it was over more subtle details, like the particular brand of white shirt or socks you wore. The actual uniform was more or less irrelevant to this competition - it was much more yet another attempt at social control of pupils.

Maybe that's why pupils in systems with uniforms are that much more rebellious - they've got something right in front of their noses every morning to rebel against.

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