On the naughty step conduct that deserves a ticking off

This week: back-to-school expenses

The best things in life are free. Well, apart from wine and cheese. But we expect to pay for an awful lot of things and not all of them bring us pleasure.

Jumpers, for example, are something that children are required to wear to school. But how much should parents pay? School jumpers are not designer wear. They are simply a way of keeping children warm and identifying them as part of a school community.

They may be grey, green, blue or red. But increasingly they have school logos, or even specialist house names, and the cost goes up accordingly.

A report this week from the NASUWT teaching union found that families are increasingly required to purchase uniforms from a particular supplier. One parent said: "Our school has just changed uniform from one you can buy from the supermarket to one you have to buy from suppliers. The only difference is a badge, but it costs nearly three times as much."

In the US, the National Retail Federation estimates that spending on back-to-school items will reach $26.5 billion (pound;15.8 billion) this year - and even in a country where school uniform is more rarely worn, the biggest single expense is clothing.

Here at TESS we are far from being in the anti-uniform brigade. But as costs rise so do our concerns that perhaps things are becoming too pricey. And with that in mind, it's off to the (discount) naughty step for back-to-school expenses.

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