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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