Families hit by Norwich school uniform delays

Hundreds of pupils went back to school missing parts of their uniform yesterday after a Norwich shop failed to meet the high demand - but today parents were reassured that the company was working flat out to try to solve the problem.

Managing director of the Schoolwear Centre, Ian Bird, said: 'We are talking to the schools to keep them informed of supply problems. Some of this is to do with the recession. A typical supplier might have previously held �10m worth of stock and now they are only able to hold �3m.

'Things have come in late or not at all. It has been the most difficult summer we have had. Any customer who wants a refund can have one.'

Shaun Stearman, 43, of Margaret Paston Avenue in Mile Cross, ordered and paid for a full uniform for his son Elliott, 11, and only received a tie.

Mr Stearman said: 'Yesterday was Elliott's first day at Sewell Park College. We paid for a blazer, polo shirt and sweatshirt around August 20. We had to go to a superstore to buy him shirts and a black blazer jacket in the end. It's the wrong colour and style. When I dropped him off this morning there was a couple of other children going in with the wrong jackets.'

Head of Sewell Park Gavin Bellamy said: 'I understand it has affected the students who have been to the Centre more recently. It has affected no more than half a dozen who don't have blazers. The pupils here are proud of their uniform.'

Mr Bellamy said the children had notes from their parents explaining the situation and the school had tried its best to put the pupils at ease.

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Mr Bird said the Schoolwear Centre, which is based in Ber Street, supplies about 70 of the 490 schools in Norfolk. Staff and embroiderers were working all hours to try to meet demands.

He said they were still waiting for some items which had been ordered as far back December.

He continued: 'People say - how would you feel? My little boy is five. We don't supply his school but the place that does is out of stock. He is wearing a polo shirt to school. I understand how the parents feel.'

Hellesdon High School headteacher, Gerard Batty, said: 'Five pupils in year seven haven't got their uniform. It's nice to see them walk around in their new stiff blazers. I think they will feel a little bit self-conscious, the pupils don't know when they are going to get them. Every company has a problem sometime. It might be an idea to make sure they have a plan B next time. We hope the children get their blazers as soon as possible.'

Some schools experienced supply problems because they had implemented a new uniform.

Hethersett High headteacher Kerry Jordan said the school had uniform stock issues but this was partly due to the new blazers which were introduced.

Ms Jordan said: 'All our year sevens are in a new uniform. They look very smart. We have been liaising closely with the Schoolwear Centre and they have kept us in the picture.'

It is compulsory for year sevens to wear the new blazers but older pupils could choose. Ms Jordan said there had been a bigger uptake in the number of older pupils who wanted the new blazers.

Melissa Lawrence, who has two children at Framingham Earl and Rockland St Mary Primary school said: 'I only went to the Schoolwear centre once, in the middle of August to get polo shirts and jumpers for my children. They didn't have any jumpers and I only managed to get one polo shirt for each.'

Ms Lawrence, a social services worker from Rockland St Mary said: 'Parents were talking about it in the school office, there was a big queue.'

City Academy and Open Academy supply their own uniform to their students while Thorpe St Andrew High School use different suppliers. Ormiston Victory Academy said that they did not have any problems with uniform supplies.

*Has your child been affected? Contact reporter Lucy Wright on 01603 772495 or email lucy.wright@archant.co.uk