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School uniform costs soar to £130

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Parents are struggling to fund kids return to school as costs of uniforms soar while some councils offer as little as £20 to poorest families

Parents are being asked to join a campaign for a minimum school clothing grant after a charity revealed the cost of new uniforms could be up to £130.

The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG) said many families were struggling to meet the high costs of sending their children back to school – even if they shopped at supermarkets and bargain stores.

While low-income families can qualify for school clothing grants, these were found to vary “hugely” from area to area, ranging from just £20 in Angus to £110 in West Lothian.

CPAG in Scotland, along with the Poverty Truth Commission and One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS), is now calling for a minimum rate to be set for the whole of Scotland.

Wear a cheap pair of shoes and you're stuck with the name that comes with that all the way through school

John Dickie, the charity’s director, said: “Though the responsibility to ensure school clothing grants are adequate ultimately lies with local authorities, the Scottish Government has a golden opportunity to set a minimum rate for the whole of Scotland, helping to ensure every child can return to school feeling comfortable, confident and ready to learn.

“If government is serious about closing the attainment gap it is small but significant measures like this that can make all the difference.”

The Poverty Truth Commission warned the cost of uniforms leaves many children from low-income families at risk of bullying if they are sent to school in clothes that fit badly or fail to meet dress codes.

Community development officer Elaine Downie said: “Many young people are starting with high levels of anxiety as they are stigmatised and bullied for the clothes they wear.

“As Karen, one of our commissioners says: 'Wear a cheap pair of shoes and you're stuck with the name that comes with that all the way through school’.”

Researchers also found that in many cases families were starting the school year in debt after buying uniforms and supplies.

Satwat Rehman, head of OPFS, said: “Parents are paying hundreds of pounds for school uniforms, with many poor families having to cut back on essentials in order to afford them.

“Current policy risks dividing pupils into the haves and have-nots. We hope the Scottish Government will act to ensure equal treatment for all our children”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said education secretary John Swinney would shortly meet with council body Cosla to discuss the school clothing grant and agree on a minimum level “to ensure those families across Scotland who need support receive it”.

She added: “This Government has vowed to take action to tackle child poverty and we have already done a lot of work in this area but we want to go further.‎

“That is why today we are launching our Child Poverty bill consultation. The bill, to be introduced next year, will build on our existing work, and will form part of our overall approach to tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland.”