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Shops 'marooned' by school uniform choice

By Cheddar Valley Gazette  |  Posted: July 12, 2012

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Parents could be forced to buy school uniform from John Lewis instead of locally under one school’s wardrobe shake-up.

Blue will go out and maroon phased in at Churchill Academy and Sixth from September to match its re-branding.

Polo and sweatshirts can still be bought from Deanes of Cheddar and Browns of Weston. But new high-quality charcoal grey trousers must come from John Lewis.

The academy is now considering making John Lewis the only supplier for all uniform – meaning shops could be left with branded clothing on their shelves.

Dr Barry Wratten, head teacher of Churchill, said the school has used three local businesses as long-term uniform vendors but they have only sourced the top half of the uniform. Now the school wants to offer a package.

He said: “We have had difficulties with these businesses sourcing charcoal grey trousers in terms of price.

“Of course we want to support local businesses but when we set this out 18 months ago our concern was value for money.”

Not all parents are on the same side in this quality vs price debate, with about 20 letters and emails being sent to the school.

But the head teacher said he is listening to concerns and meeting with parents.

“We want to respond to parents,” said the head.

“If they can match the quality of these charcoal grey trousers we are open to other sourcing arrangements.

“But we won’t go back to anything goes.

“One issue is when children go out with parents to buy uniform they tell parents ‘of course, these trousers are perfectly acceptable’ and by the time parents realise differently they have paid their money.

“There’s a false economy around cheap clothes.

“These are nice quality clothes and last longer and wash better.”

The school said it chose John Lewis as it believes it offers reasonably priced, good quality uniform.

But critics are unhappy with the £20 to £23 price tag on charcoal grey trousers and the nearest outlet being in Bristol.

Shopping online may also put off some parents, who would rather try clothes on their children before buying instead of returning ill-fitting uniform via post.

An online petition, Support the sale of Churchill uniform at Deanes of Cheddar, has been started by parents and clocked up 150 signatures on www.ipeti tions.com at the time of writing.

Some of the comments left said:

“The great in Great Britain comes from allowing all patrons the freedom of choice.

“Running a dictatorial attitude to a key matter such as this is the first disastrous steps to the economic devastation which affects our local and proud retailers.”

“It’s disgusting. It’s basically saying to lower income families not to go to Churchill.

“Not everyone can afford to go to John Lewis to buy their children’s school uniform.”

“I am disgusted. My friend is manageress of Browns, the loyal company that has provided Churchill for years.

“Dr Wratten has done the dirty on them, Deanes of Cheddar and all us parents.”

Deanes of Cheddar has supplied Churchill for 30 years.

Owner Nigel Deane had no comment.

The Cheddar shop continues to be the main supplier of neighbouring Kings of Wessex Academy, Hugh Sexey Middle School in Blackford and others.

Old and new uniform will co-exist until September, 2014. Years 10 and 11 will leave before then but Year 7, which starts this September, will do so in new uniform.

No mix-and-matching of old and new uniforms is allowed.

Students at Churchill Academy are put into one of four houses.

Each house has a different colour trim on the sleeves and collars of the polo shirts.

Hanover is gold, Stuart is green.

Tudor is red and Windsor is sky blue.

With the multiple variations that are needed in making the shirts, it is thought suppliers would have ordered the stock well in advance.

However, if any remain in the event of John Lewis becoming the school’s only vendor then shops could be marooned with branded goods.

What is your view on the issue? Write to ed itor@midsomnews.co.uk or The Editor, Cheddar Valley Gazette, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH.

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