Dh1,000 for a four-year-old: private schools' uniform policy leaves families out of pocket

'It’s not like you can pop into the mall to get what you need' says parent Stephanie Hughes, whose child's uniform must be bought from an approved store

Dubai, U.A.E., August 27 , 2018. 
Parents facing high costs to buy school uniforms.  Florence Hughes- 4 in her Safa Community School uniform with her sister, Yvie-2.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Patrick Ryan
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For British mother-of-two Stephanie Hughes, the thought of spending Dh1,000 on a uniform for her four-year-old is beyond the pale.

But like many private schools, hers stipulates that clothes must come from an approved retailer, rather than supermarkets like Carrefour, with their cut-price ranges.

Mrs Hughes, whose daughter Florence, four, is just about to join the FS2 class at Safa Community School, says the fact she can only buy her child's uniform from a school-approved outlet gives her no control over what type of clothing she buys and how much she pays for it.

She believes the lack of alternative outlets is a concern for parents across the country.

“There is nothing you can source from anywhere else,” Ms Hughes said.

“It is not like you can go into Asda, like you can in the UK, and pick up a school skirt or trousers. Everything has to be bought from one source.”

She said that if she didn’t buy some of the clothes second-hand it would cost her Dh1,000 to kit her daughter out for the school year.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if the quality wasn’t terrible and there is also the fact that many parents don’t drive and these shops are not always easy to get to,” she said.

“Then there is the added problem that these shops are not always open when you need them to be, it’s not like you can pop into the mall to get what you need.

“As if it’s not enough that we are already having to fork out for school fees,” Ms Hughes said.

“We have to buy everything except shoes. That includes a book bag, PE bag, swimming and PE kits and hats – right down to the scrunchies for girls.”

She said that while her daughter’s school, like many others, runs a second-hand shop which allows parents to pick up clothes at a cheaper cost, the quality can often be lacking.

“A lot of parents sell their children’s clothes when they grow out of them to make their money back,” she said.

“But even then you can’t be guaranteed that the quality of the products is decent. In one case clothes that were on sale were covered in paint.”

She added that if schools were able to relax their policies on this issue it would go a long way to helping parents.

“I have to say I love Safa Community School and have no gripes with them at all except on the uniform policy, but it is the same all over the UAE.”