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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Budget-conscious parents must have uniform options

Hard-pressed families cannot be held to ransom over the cost of kitting out their children

Some parents are facing high costs to buy school uniforms. Victor Besa/The National
Some parents are facing high costs to buy school uniforms. Victor Besa/The National

A school uniform has much to recommend it. It signals to a child’s subconscious that, for the next few hours, playtime is suspended and attention must be focused on learning.

It helps create a sense of pride and common purpose, bonding together youngsters from disparate backgrounds in the pursuit of academic success within the framework of a community.

And there is research to show that uniforms improve behaviour, boost academic achievement and, by removing fashion from the mix, reduce anxiety and bullying. But their alarming cost is leaving some parents in despair – and several thousands dirhams out of pocket.

With nearly 600,000 schoolchildren due to start the autumn term on Sunday, a number of frustrated parents are being left with a huge dent in their budgets, with some schools charging as much as Dh395 for each branded item.

Bearing logos or coming in difficult-to-match shades, they struggle to find substitutes elsewhere or are beholden to only buy from official suppliers. Worse, some items are stitched with poor quality fabrics, which leave young ones sweltering in the heat.

While uniforms are a vital tool in schools’ mission to equip children with the knowledge and confidence they need to make it in the world, what they must not do is add to the woes of already hard-pressed families.

It is unfair for some suppliers to hold a monopoly on particular uniforms and leave parents with little or no choice in where to shop – particularly when items for their growing offspring are unlikely to last long.

Schools owe it to pupils and their parents to work together to avoid an unnecessary and unreasonable burden. Sensible pricing and a variety of options would provide some relief for parents already under pressure from school fees.

With schooling globally becoming more expensive amid demands for a competitive talent pool, there are measures underway to curtail the cost in the region.

School fees were frozen in Dubai this year, some schools have reduced charges and Abu Dhabi has announced plans for a new band of more affordable schools.

With those measures in place in recognition of the impact of funding a child’s education, the cost of a school uniform should not be so high that it stretches many budgets to breaking point.