Cost of school uniform breaks the bank

My friend’s son will be going to secondary school soon and the family is busy preparing for the event. But while they are excited that he is growing up so fast, they are not quite so thrilled with how much it will set them back financially. I was shocked to hear that the uniform costs alone will be nearly £400. Now, the child in question won’t be attending an expensive private school – believe it or not, this is the price of a uniform for a local comprehensive.

I remember my Mum complaining about the cost of the uniform at my secondary school. We were only supposed to purchase items from the school itself or a specially designated shop with which it had an exclusive contract. And the shop in question was, of course, hardly the cheapest in the area. During my first year, my parents bowed to school demands and forked out for the special skirts and summer uniform blue blouses. But they quickly realised that the blouses looked exactly the same as ones you could get more affordably in BHS, which is exactly what we did. And nobody ever noticed the difference.

But things have changed since my school days. Nearly every item of uniform at my friend’s son’s new school is branded with the school badge – its embroidered on everything from the blazer to the woollen jumpers – so parents have little choice but to pay through the nose for regulation items. Then there are the regulation PE kits – which in this case include special swimwear, a rugby kit, plus a separate outdoors and indoors PE kit and trainers. It all adds up and this is before other costs, such as school trips. A government survey recently found that parents spend on average £1200 a year on a child at secondary school

Now, I’d agree that it’s important for kids to look smart at school, take pride in their appearance and learn to follow rules. My school had strict uniform regulations and as a result, the pupils looked smart and the school maintained its good reputation. But haven’t these schools noticed that there is a recession on? How can families who are already struggling afford these excessive costs? Not to mention the fact that these kids are rapidly growing, so parents will have to pay out even more during the year as they outgrow their expensive uniforms and Mum and Dad are forced to buy new ones. It doesn’t seem fair to me. At least, for once, the government has warned schools that they should be helping parents keep uniform costs down during the recession. I wonder whether it is actually having any effect? In the meantime, here are some frugal uniform tips:

Frugal school uniform tips:

– In recent years supermarkets have entered the school uniform market and now compete fiercely on price. If your school’s uniform style is generic enough to allow you to do so, source items such as blazers, shirts, trousers and skirts from your local supermarket or online. Don’t leave it too late, though, as the ranges often sell out fast.

– Buy blazers, trousers or skirts which are a size or two bigger and, if you’re handy with a sewing needle, hem up the sleeves etc. and then let them out as and when your child gets bigger.

– Buy trousers and skirts with an elastic waistband to allow for your child’s growth spurts.

– Make friends with parents of older kids at the school and source second hand or spare uniform items from them or Freecycle. Also, occasionally schools will sell off second hand or discounted uniform items during the year, so look out for the sales or make enquiries.

– If you are on a low income, most schools will offer financial support to pay for uniform items, so find out what help is available. There may also be grants available from your local education authority.

– Schools which have exclusive deals with uniform suppliers could now face legal action under the Competition Act, so it’s worth pointing this out if your school insists on directing you to a sole supplier. Otherwise you can contact the Office of Fair Trading and make a complaint.

Do you think school uniform costs are unfair? Do you have any other tips for keeping the charges down? Leave a message and let me know.

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8 Responses to Cost of school uniform breaks the bank

  1. nicola says:

    Luckily my son is only six so we don\’t have this problem at the moment, with uniform being too expensive. However this September my daughter also starts in the reception class, so we do have double the amount of items to buy. The uniform is pretty straightforward, white polo shirts, red jumper/cardigan, grey skirt/pinafore/trousers. I have found that Asda is great for uniform, however sometimes they do sell out of the more popular sizes very quickly, so you may have to make a couple of trips to get everything you want. The school is pretty flexible in terms of branded and non branded items, although I do always think that the \’proper\’ school jumper does look much neater than a plain one. This year that is the only \’school branded\’ items I will be buying.

  2. piper says:

    Asda are running a 100 day money back guarantee on their school uniforms bought between Wednesday 15th July to Sunday 13th September – guaranteeing that they will last until the end of the Christmas term. The 100 day guarantee is applicable from the day of purchase. Exclusions from the offer include: footwear, coats, outerwear, underwear, socks, tights, sportswear and accessories.

  3. Nina says:

    Boo to the secondery school uniform! At the moment with one going into year 1 and one going into year 6, I have found that paying just a little bit more means it goes a long way. I find Asda uniform pants and yes you can take ot back but the kids look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards after a week of wearing it! Next, BHS, M&S and Matalan uniform might be a little more expensive but I have found lasts until they grow out of it and still has wear to pass on to a friend.

  4. jane says:

    When I was at school we never wore a school uniform either at junior or senior, the only schools that did were the grammar schools. The schools had one but it was fairly loose, navy at senior and royal blue at junior, and was worn if you were in an external event, Leeds choir festival etc, the school had uniforms available for those who didn\’t have them. As a group of children we were no better or worse behaved than any other children in school and our respect and pride in our school wasn\’t affected either.On the continent children do not wear uniforms in most schools and they do not behave any worse than children here who do.Schools should stick to the job of teaching and not suppressing individualism.Have a read of this

  5. jane says:

    One more point parents have more power than they realise, remember schools need your kids to survive. Turn the tables on unreasonable rules and practises. Get together tell your head you want a reasonable uniform policy. Many heads treat their schools like their own little fifedom and set petty rules because they can. Challenge the reasoning behind the uniform, if it is pride in the school point out you and your child would have more pride in a school that catered to all it\’s kids needs, rich and poor. The uniform can be generic with a sew on badge available for the jumper so that the parents who cannot afford the jumpers, often sold by the school, can buy them. JUST A THOUGHT ASK THE SCHOOL WHAT % OF THE COST OF THE JUMPERS ETC DO THEY GET FOR SCHOOL FUNDS, DO IT WITH PHOTOGRAPHS TOO.If the reason that is, it is cheaper for parents as some schools point out, reply that a) exclusive shops are not b) that school uniform is not very hard wearing and c) if that is the case can you have it changed to jeans t-shirt and sweatshirts which are.£400 plus is not acceptable for school uniformGet your school to drop the specialist PE kits we did fine one on for all things and swim wear which was whatever you had for home, and so will your children.Cheap hard wearing clothes do not have to be worried about so much and your child can enjoy being a child.Challenge it!

  6. charlotte says:

    i think its vile that schools can get away with this.i have six children and two are at senior has cost me a small fortune to get them kitted out.i am a single daughter once had to school with a pair of black shoes with a white trim because her shoes had broken and the school had a fit and phoned me to tell me to get her new pair by the next day!luckly i did but she would have had to take time off if i hadn\’t.surely her bein ay school looking smart was better than her taking time off?at the kids primary schools i can shop anywhere i like but not at senier school-it stinks.i am doing my best on a tiny bugdet but unless i find a spare £100 my best isn\’t good the end of the day as long as the kids are smart and show up everyday then thats mre inportant than wearing the right logo?

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