Children, school uniform and other hells. Tilf and Trick examine finances and quandries.

Oh, thank any god you like. Throw flowers at lucky stars. Give gifts to any spirit, djinn, ifrit or any demon, imp, god or demi-god. The time has come. It’s amazing.
The kids go back to school.

Over the years, I’ve become a sound board. When you’re in school, you hate uniform. You find any way you can to wreck the sleeves, lose the tie, grow out of the shirts and fashionably scuff the shoes. I did the same, I think most school kids do. Because we have no concept of the cost of school uniforms, but parents do. And I have been learning. Again.

The average school uniform consists of smart, plain black shoes, with little or no heel, plain black or blue pleated or plain skirt or trousers, a crisp collared white shirt, a monogrammed jumper or sweater with a uniformed tie to top it off. All of these things have to be bought before the new school year, but near enough the start of term that sudden growth spurt doesn’t render buying new stuff useless. Then there’s name labels, thankfully, only for primary school kids, as any kids beyond year 8 with name labels is liable to getting seven shades of shit beaten out of them by the other kids. So it’s time for needle and thread, or the joys of wunderweb (copyright, I expect!)

If the children don’t have a uniform, they’re, more often than not, given detention. A letter goes home to parents and guardians, letting them know their child is “improperly dressed”. Dafuq? If the kid was wearing jeans and a tee shirt, high heeled slut boots, trainers or a sweater with ‘fuck you all’ written on it, I could understand the rage. But the average family cannot afford to buy half a dozen monogrammed items of clothing that, over the course of the year, will be lost, stolen, melted, ripped, covered in paint, shrunk in an emergency wash and pulled through every available hedge and tree. That’s if there’s just one child, the average family now consists of 2-3 children, so for sake of argument, we’ll say 3 kids. That means 3 monogrammed sweaters, at the very least. We’ll go on the idea that the kids are all at the same school and they only need a sweater and tie.

The average school sweater comes in about £20-30, so well say £25, then, generally £5-10 for a tie, we’ll say £8. That means for one family, there’s already £99 on the cost of a new school year. Then there’s the extras, like shirts, trousers and skirts, and the shoes. If you don’t need monogrammed extras, and the kids can just use standard things, then you still have to buy that. The average extras uniform will consist of a shirt (about £10), a skirt or trousers (about £15), shoes (for sake of argument about £25), that’s running on the idea that they only need one set of these per year, but of course you need two of the shirts and skirts or trousers, so you have a cycle of uniform in the wash and on the go. So that’s almost all the above doubled, for each child. So roughly £75, per child, already, just with the basic sets, each child has already cost £108, so for three sets of sprogs, it’s already £324. But if the whole uniform must be monogrammed, then you’re looking at about £400, per child, per year.

Then there’s books, and text books, equipment, pens, pencil cases, art sets, bags, coats and stuff for home economics (if schools even still teach that!). Then there’s PE kit, so new trainers, that have to be good, or the shoes will get taken and thrown in a tree and the kid will get beaten up for being A) poor, B) shit, C) well crap or D) a wanker. But if they’re too good, they’ll get beaten up and have them stolen anyway. Or they’ll just be lost over the year. So there’s at least two pairs of trainers, at god knows how much money. Then there’s time.

The majority of parents don’t have time to run around the shops after work, but of course there’s only late night shopping. So after a long day of trying not to punch the boss, or running around shop floors serving idiots who won’t look for things themselves and trying to explain over the phone to said children that they would rather they didn’t go to brighton/london/hastings/timbuktu, or eat all the peanut butter straight from the jar, they have to go shopping. Because you know, even non-parents know, you cannot trust a child to choose their school coat responsibly.

Schools seem to not realise that the average parent doesn’t have the money to throw around all over the place, and publically punishing the child because mum or dad can’t afford to buy another blazer is embarrassing. For the child and the parent. Kids are horrible, we know this, but School Mums, the ones who dress up for the school run, who always have the best parties, the ones who can afford to throw money at everything, they’re just as spiteful.

I almost want parents to rise up and shout at the school boards. “Do you honestly think, if I could afford £300 a term on a jumper they’ll lose or never wear, because you’re heating is jammed on full, that I would continue sending my child to your second rate hovel of an excuse for an educational facility? No, I wouldn’t, I’d find a better school, with less arseholes, maybe a boarding school.” But they don’t, and they can’t, because the child would be punished, or expelled, and then everyone is buggered.

When we’re teenagers, we’re told that £40 for a jumper is a bit silly, just because it has a name on it, but apparently for schools that’s acceptable.

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