18 April 2013
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Labour councillors savaged Conservative Kensington and Chelsea’s refusal to re-instate school uniform grants for needy families. Labour spokesman Cllr Robert Atkinson said “we face a surging tide of poverty, misery and debt, with hard working families forced to take out pay day loans so that their children can have school uniforms “.
Seconding the motion, Cllr Pat Mason added that “more enlightened local authorities, such as Enfield and York, recognise their duty to help poor families clothe their children for school. The richest borough in the land’s refusal to restore uniform grants proves yet again that they do not care about young people in their own borough”
Cllr Atkinson pointed out that local schools are increasingly opting for very expensive designer uniforms and instructing families to purchase them irrespective of their financial circumstances. He said “families with two or more children at school are forced to find hundreds of pounds from tiny budgets. Any failure to comply with the uniform code is treated by some schools as a disciplinary matter rather than one of poverty and children are being humiliated and sent home just for the crime of being poor “.
Rejecting Labour’s proposal, the Conservative councillors said that uniform policy is purely a matter for school governors. As schools in the borough are very generously funded, where they opt for expensive designer uniforms, they must decide for themselves how to assist poorer families.
Cllr Atkinson dismissed this response. He pointed out that the schools do little or nothing to help poorer families and condemned the council for “closing its eyes to a serious problem which a small annual grants fund could sort out once and for all. Tory councillors in the richest borough in the country who annually spend a fortune on streetscape, opera and the arts should be truly ashamed for ignoring local children. Allowing schools to humiliate and suspend their poorest pupils will seriously damage their education and life chances”.