23 Jan 2024

Principal groups defend school uniform pricing as families face struggle

8:55 am on 23 January 2024
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Charity Variety says last year, 13 percent of all of its claims from parents on its Kiwi kids sponsorship programme were for school uniform costs. (file image) Photo: RNZ/ Dan Cook

The upcoming school year's set to throw up some financial hurdles for some parents.

Many families are preparing to fork out hundreds of dollars to pay for their child's school uniform.

Deluvina Mauigoa is an East Auckland mum who is currently on a benefit due to being chronic renal failure in 2017.

Mauigoa is trying to buy a uniform for her intermediate aged daughter.

"I realised to get her everything that she needs by the time she starts next week Wednesday would cost almost $800, which we don't even have quarter of that at the moment, so it's been quite stressful really."

She told RNZ the schools' uniform rules are often closely monitored.

"They may get maybe an okay the first day they don't come with the full uniform, but, since its intermediate, it's like the rules get more and more strict.

"I don't want to put my child in that position ... it would be heartbreaking."

She was aware of other parents in higher income brackets also finding it difficult to meet the costs of uniforms, Mauigoa said.

"Even parents with a constant income flow are struggling as well, so if they're struggling just imagine how the below-average income parent would be."

Variety chief executive Susan Glasgow said the start of the school year was a challenging time for many.

"The resources to be able to provide a new school uniform for a child, when you have perhaps two or three siblings in a family, at the beginning of the year straight after Christmas is incredibly stressful for most parents."

Uniforms were increasing in cost year on year, Glasgow said.

"This year, with the cost-of-living crisis, it's even more difficult for parents to be able to find the funds that they need after paying for their rent, after paying for their bills, after putting food on the table.

"To then fund a school uniform that is more expensive than it would have been last year is incredibly difficult for them."

The charity was seeing an increasing number of parents needing their assistance, she said.

"Last year, 13 percent of all of our claims from parents on our Kiwi Kids sponsorship programme were for school uniform costs.

"So that was over 1600 families across the country [who] came to Variety asking for help for their child's school uniform."

Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Kyle Brewerton said uniforms usually lasted a while and so it paid off.

"Over the life of that uniform, which will easily last a couple of years if well cared for, you're well and truly saving money in the long term."

He suggested anyone struggling to pay for a uniform contact their school.

"We always recommend going and talking to the schools, so many of us will have ways and means of supporting those families that are in genuine need."

Secondary Principals Association president Vaughan Couillault told RNZ buying a uniform was expensive, but it was probably cheaper than having to dress in different clothes every day.

"Uniforms take away a little bit of that social stigma of having to have a different outfit for everyday of the week, and the amount you have to spend on standard clothing items actually decreases as a result of the uniform.

"We realise that uniforms items are expensive, but they are expensive because they are robust and designed to last a year of being worn almost every day."

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