Cost of living: only seven councils automatically pay out school uniform grants

Only seven Scottish councils automatically pay school uniform grants to families when they apply for other benefits, research has found.

An academic at Aberdeen University is warning there is a postcode lottery when it comes to financial support for school uniforms.

Dr Rachel Shanks said it could put children’s right to education at risk as household costs rise.

Data gathered from 31 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities showed councils paid out more than £22.5 million in clothing grants during the 2021-22 school year, helping to provide uniforms to more than 161,000 primary and secondary children.

Most Scottish councils don't automatically pay school uniform grants

The national minimum school clothing grant is set at £120 for primary pupils and £150 for secondary students.

The research also found just five councils roll over the school clothing grant into the next school year without requiring families to re-apply.

Based on her findings, Dr Shanks has laid out a series of recommendations which she will present at a roundtable discussion at Holyrood this week.

Dr Shanks said: “The Education (Scotland) Act specifies that education authorities must ensure that no child attending a school under their management is unable to take advantage of the education provided because of the inadequacy or unsuitability of their clothing.

“Publicly-funded secondary schools in Scotland expect households to provide many items of clothing which will cost more than the £150 of the national minimum clothing grant for secondary school pupils.

“With the current cost-of-living crisis and increasing financial pressures on families with children, the school clothing grant is an important mechanism to ensure children’s right to education.”

Dr Shanks said education authorities should consider other options to make school more affordable.

She continued: “There are different solutions on how to alleviate the costs of school uniform to make them affordable.

“Many schools have already reduced uniform costs by taking steps such as removing the requirement for logos, reducing the number of mandated items, operating a blazer deposit scheme and ending exclusive supplier arrangements, as part of wider efforts to reduce the cost of the school day for families.

“There are further options, however, such as encouraging schools to consider setting up mechanisms to donate or share second-hand clothing and working with one of the 30 dedicated school clothing banks that exist across Scotland or relevant social enterprises.”

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