Unhappy with school uniform price hike

Shelley McPherson holding up the old and new uniform polo shirts of Arataki School. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

A Tauranga mum is unhappy with her children’s primary school following the introduction of a new uniform, costing almost twice as much the previous one.

Shelley McPherson says she was initially happy to send her children to Arataki School, as she considered the school’s ‘partial’ uniform of a polo shirt and fleece to be acceptable.

“Having just the top made it not unreasonable, I thought, even though you could do it cheaper by buying a polo for $3 from a shop and putting the logo on yourself,” she says.

The original uniform consisted of a polo shirt ($27), fleece ($37), and summer hat ($13), totalling $77.

The new uniform has more expensive versions of the polo shirt ($35), fleece ($55) and summer hat ($15), while adding a regulation short or skort ($37), totalling $142.

Optional items for winter include track pants ($55) and a beanie ($23).

The school says consultation on the changes included notices in the school newsletter and the proposed new uniform being displayed in the school office.

However, Shelley believes there wasn’t enough discussion with parents about the changes, and is frustrated that school boards seem to have the power to make changes such as this on a whim.

“While it may be legal, I don’t see how it can really be ethical,” she says. “The law seems to say if a school dictates they have a uniform, you must wear it. But on the other hand, if you look at other sections of the law, they can’t kick you out of school if you’re not wearing a uniform. So there’s no clear definition.

‘At the end of the day, it’s not their money they’re spending, it’s that of parents and families.”

Arataki School board of trustees chair Cindy Shaw says the new uniform is being gradually phased in, with all pupils expected to wear it from 2020.

“All tamariki are able to wear either uniform until then.”

She says the reasons for changing to the new uniform include it being easier to wear, made from a more breathable, durable fabric, which makes them last longer and thus more cost-effective in being handed down.

“The bulk of the increase in cost comes from the inclusion of uniform bottoms. The decision was made to include uniform bottoms to ensure that all of our tamariki are in appropriate, long-wearing and tidy attire.”

Cindy says the board acknowledges the pressure the increased costs may put on families, hence the gradual phasing in.

“We also currently have a sub-committee investigating a number of strategies we can employ to help support the purchase of the school uniform.”

In regards to the consequences of not wearing the correct uniform, Cindy says there are times when this occurs, with each case being treated on its merits.

“However, it may be that the tamariki is granted temporary permission for that one day, or loaned the correct uniform.  If it’s an issue of finances, then we encourage our whanau to meet with our staff to discuss the best way forward.  As stated above, we are working to find more ways to support the purchase of the uniform.”

Former Merivale School principal and current Labour MP Jan Tinetti says when her school introduced a uniform, it was important to make it affordable.

“At Merivale we took the stance we were going to make out uniforms as cheap as possible. We had a blue polo shirt with no monogram or logo, so that meant parents could buy them anywhere. Children could then wear anything with black on the bottom.”

As a new MP, Jan says she’s had a lot of contact from people regarding the issue of school uniforms.

“School costs are something we’re really concerned about in Labour, and as a caucus we are coming up with policies at the moment to alleviate the burden on families.

“I don’t see the point in uniforms, personally. I find them ‘old-school’, and I’d like to think we’re moving beyond that in education. But I understand that some schools want to develop a sense of identity.”


Ministry of Education deputy secretary of enablement and support Katrina Casey says each school board of trustees is responsible for determining whether or not a school has a uniform and what it consists of, as well as how it is enforced.

“This isn’t something we have a particular view on, although we do think it is important schools consider consultation with their parent community when they are seeking to change existing rules about uniforms.

“Certainly in all cases we expect schools to communicate very clearly with parents what their requirements are.”

She says any parent who is worried about the cost of school uniforms should talk to their school.

“Similarly, parents or students who are not clear about a school’s dress code should discuss any issues with senior staff at the school. Anyone who has concerns about the rules or how they are being enforced should contact the principal in the first instance.

“If not happy with their response they should then contact the board of trustees. If still not satisfied, they can contact their local Ministry of Education office and we will see if we can mediate a solution.”

The Ministry of Education refused to answer whether a student could lawfully be denied attendance at a state school if they refused to wear a uniform.

While the 6th Schedule to the Education Act 1989 lays out the powers, duties and obligations school boards – including the ability to ‘make bylaws that the board thinks necessary or desirable for the control and management of the school’ – it also subjects boards to ‘the general law of New Zealand’. This means school boards cannot enforce rules that breach New Zealand laws.

According to the same act, the principal of a state school may stand-down or suspend a student if satisfied on reasonable grounds that ‘the student’s gross misconduct or continual disobedience is a harmful or dangerous example to other students at the school’, or ‘because of the student’s behaviour, it is likely that the student, or other students at the school, will be seriously harmed if the student is not stood-down or suspended’.


Correction @ Ron

Posted on 31-01-2018 19:59 | By backofthequeue

Much of the controversy surrounding Partnership or Charter Schools is that they are actually funded at a level 3 to 4 times higher than the per student amount paid state schools. Free uniforms are simply a marketing mechanism to promote their being.


Posted on 31-01-2018 18:18 | By overit

Thats a bit harsh. We are all victims of increasing prices. Just as well you can buffer them.

Whine whine

Posted on 31-01-2018 15:55 | By maildrop

Don’t have kids if you can’t afford to clothe them. Now the nanny brigade are in there seems to be a lot of people holding their hands out wanting someone else to pay for their life choices. Clear off.


Posted on 31-01-2018 15:08 | By @)---}-

You’d spend more money on ’mufti’ clothing for throughout the year surely! Then kids get competitive with designer wear etc, better all these kids are dressed the same.

Bigger issues

Posted on 31-01-2018 14:55 | By Kaimai

Surely Boards of Trustees have got bigger issues to deal with than fashion parades. Who cares what kids wear to school if they are dry and warm / cool depending on the weather. How about cutting out the power plays and educating kids, with the resources that are available.

Pity the Government wants to close schools down

Posted on 31-01-2018 12:40 | By Ron

Jan Tinetti cries crocodile tears. Her government, in lock step with her union bosses, are closing down Partnership schools which provide free uniforms even though they have less funding than state schools. For the sake of keeping the unions happy Jan and her colleagues are adding costs to parents such as those at Arataki.


Posted on 31-01-2018 12:08 | By Capt_Kaveman

would get numbers together and boycott the uniform and use the law that children must attend school by law

No uniform

Posted on 31-01-2018 11:26 | By thebrad

Just get rid of them i went to school in Canada we never had uniforms, it was great.

Money for the school

Posted on 31-01-2018 08:18 | By waiknot

Schools are more and more using uniforms as a profit making venture. By putting school logos on them only the school approved shops can sell them. A return to the standardised uniforms just colour variations between schools would have them available at KMart etc at a realistic price

The joy of it all,

Posted on 31-01-2018 07:38 | By Marshal

Capitalism in action.. At least the uniform may be improved. Usually product quality drops and the price increases. Or you are left with product shrinkage and an increase in the price .. lol. I feel for all the young families trying to make there way in a society run by greedy wealth gatherers....

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment. Login Now
Opinion Poll

Should schools be able to fine parents for parking illegally?

Yes, schools should have the right to fine those putting children in danger.
No, it should be left for police to handle.