School uniform suppliers selling size 18 skirts and 44 inch waist trousers as obesity levels rise
PUBLISHED: 11:37 20 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:37 20 August 2019
School uniform suppliers say demand for plus-size garments is continuing as childhood obesity levels rise.
Stores are stocking school trousers and skirts equivalent to a women's size 18 and even ordering in bespoke plus-size uniform items.
Larger items can come with a significant cost premium - but shops say they avoid asking parents for the extra pennies where possible.
According to NHS data collected in the 2017/18 school year, 36.3pc of year six children in Norfolk were classed as overweight or obese - with 3.5pc considered severely obese. Among reception children the rate was 25.3pc with 2.1pc classed as severely obese.
This compares to 23pc of reception children and 32.1pc of year six children being classed as overweight or obese five years earlier.
Shane Ramsden of Screens in Lowestoft said his shop got regular requests for plus-size uniform.
"We tend not to hold too much stock because it comes quite rarely, but every year we have to do special orders."
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Mr Ramsden said these specially-manufactured garments are generally two to three times the price of normal school uniform.
"But schools have always subsidised it for the parents," he said.
Ray Howe, who owns Birds in Dereham, said he did not believe demand for plus-size school uniform had changed in recent years.
"I know people talk about obesity being a problem but I have not seen it this year or in the last couple of years. There is always going to be the odd bigger child," he said.
"We have a look at what we sold for the several years before, then we buy accordingly. Just occasionally there may be a child that is not on the radar and if we need to get items ordered in then we can do that."
He added: "The manufacturer quite often will swallow the cost. If it does go up considerably we can't not put something on it, but generally we don't feel that people should be penalised just because of their size."
Sarah Garrett, branch manager at Stevensons in Norwich, said the store held larger sizes in stock - up to a 44in waist in boys trousers, a 38in waist in girls' trousers and skirts and up to 40in in sportswear, with the ability to make up items up to a 48in chest.
"If we have to make a bespoke item this does have a lead time which varies according to which supplier we are sourcing from. We do not charge extra to our customers for bespoke larger or smaller sizes," she said.