Richest Council denies school uniform grants for poorest pupils

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”.  

3 thoughts on “Richest Council denies school uniform grants for poorest pupils

  1. I thought Councillor Atkinson was a governor of Holland Park. Does he not remonstrate with the leadership and other governors about this issue? When my daughter joined the school three years ago the uniform cost £99. Last summer we were all forced to buy the rebranded uniform at £225 – including the regulation coat and bag etc. If the school had enough money to literally throw away everything – even textbooks and stationery from the old school when they moved into the new building – surely they could afford to subsidise uniform as well. I think the Governors need to scrutinise the accounts of the school a bit more closely.

    I understand that other schools who changed uniform on conversion to Academy Status provided basic uniform for free.

    1. Response from Cllr Atkinson:
      When the price of the new uniform was first revealed at a governors meeting I specifically queried it (especially for families on low incomes or with more than one child at the school ) I was assured that the school would sensitively arrange loans or bursaries for those who could not pay . However the response from most governors was to treat the issue as a matter of discipline and giving support for the school . I am but one member of the governing body and find myself in the minority on a number of issues (Not least being the only Governor to vote against the school becoming an Academy mainly because I feared that it would become less subject to community influence). When I subsequently discovered that the switch to an entirely new uniform had indeed produced the hardship that I feared I have raised the issue with the Borough Council and led on a specific resolution in the Council that the local authority return to urging moderately priced uniforms and providing uniform grants to residents that need them . The Conservatives unanimously voted down my resolution (and the Lib Dems did not support it either) . However officers have since raised the matter of keeping school uniforms affordable with all schools .

      As you may be aware , once the school becomes an academy in September there will be No Labour representation on the governing body. I will therefore ,in future , have to rely solely on my position as a Councillor to try to ensure that the new Holland Park School remembers its obligations to its poorer families and to the wider, local community. Since my resolution was voted down Council Officers have discovered that, for some Academies where a change of uniform has been required the School has itself paid for the new uniform. I wish that Holland Park School had adopted such a policy and I will continue to press the Council to ensure that should other schools in the Borough change their uniforms the schools themselves pay and poorer parents are not obliged to get into debt to provide uniforms which are ridiculously expensive.
      My opposition to Academy status for any school and to expensive uniforms remains absolute . I and other Labour Councillors are closely monitoring the new secondary school under construction in my ward to ensure that ,from the beginning, it is sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the local community. Thus far, for example in its published admissions criteria, the Kensington Aldridge Academy gives every indication that, despite being set up as a new Academy ,it wishes to be a Community school in all but name . RA

  2. “Cllr Atkinson pointed out that local schools are increasingly opting for very expensive designer uniforms and instructing families to purchase them”
    This looks like the root of the issue.

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