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How to cut school uniform costs

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Written by: Emma Lunn
29/07/2022
The school holidays might have only just started, but cash-strapped parents will already be worried about the cost of uniforms for the new school year.

The issue of school uniform costs was raised in the House of Common this week when Labour MP Stephen Morgan asked the secretary of state for education if any assessment had been made of the effect of inflation on the cost of school uniforms.

In response, Conservative MP Will Quince, minister of state for school standards, admitted that no such assessment had been carried out.

He said: “The government is clear that school uniform should be affordable. No school uniform should be so expensive that pupils or their families feel unable to apply to or attend a school of their choice.

“The department understands that many people are worried about the impact of rising prices, with many households struggling to make their income stretch to cover the basics. It is therefore even more important that schools give careful consideration to the cost of their uniform and follow the guidance to ensure best value for money for parents.”

New rules regarding school uniform costs come into effect this autumn. Announced in November 2021, the new regulations mean schools in England must ensure that school uniform costs are reasonable, and parents get the best value for money.

Here are three ways to cut the cost of school uniforms:

Apply for the school uniform grant

Thousand of families across the UK might be eligible for a grant of up to £200 per child to help pay for school uniforms.

The school uniform grant is a government-run scheme which was introduced to help low-income families purchase school uniforms for their children.

All local authorities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales offer the grant, but it’s a postcode lottery in England as not all local authorities have signed up to the scheme.

How much you’ll get depends on your local authority and individual circumstances. You can get up to £200 in Wales but the maximum is £150 per child in England.

Families will normally be eligible for the non-repayable grant if their child receives free school meals.

Head to a budget supermarket

Andrea Knowles, budgeting expert at vouchers.co.uk, suggests parents buy non-branded school uniforms from their local supermarket.

“If your child’s school allows generic uniforms with zero branding, it’s worth heading to your local supermarket for their school uniform offerings,” she says, “Alternatively, if your child’s school sells embroidered school badges that can be ironed on, it may also be cheaper to go down this route.”

Lidl has just this week (Thursday 28 July) launched its Smart Start school uniform range. It is aimed at pupils aged four to 12, includes red or black jumpers for £1.50, a two-pack of white or blue polo shirts for £1.75, and trousers, skirts or shorts in grey or black for £1.75.

Alternatively, Aldi is selling Specialbuy school uniforms with sweatshirts for £1.50, polo shirt two-packs for £1.75, and trousers or skirts for £1.75.

Tesco’s F&F range of uniforms is slightly more expensive with a polo shirt two-pack costing £2.50 and a two-pack of trousers or skirts costing £7.

Get free hand-me-downs

Before buying any new uniform items, check if you can get the same item second-hand. Perhaps you have friends with older children that have uniforms in good condition that can be passed down?

Another option is to ask around on Facebook or parenting/ school forums. Some local areas might have specific Facebook pages or groups for requesting uniform items.

For example, the LS12 Uniform Scheme is a free service for parents or guardians of children attending primary and secondary schools in the LS12 area of Leeds. Under the scheme, families can obtain free, pre-loved school uniforms.

Founder Debbie Binnersley says: “The scheme helps supply clothing to those who may be struggling to meet the costs of uniform pieces, local children’s services and foster families, as well as those trying to do their bit to help save the environment.

“Over the past couple of months, I’ve seen an increase in requests as people try to find ways to reduce their expenses and I expect this will continue as the cost of living continues to rise.”

Another option is to find out if your school has a second-hand shop where uniforms can be purchased for much lower prices. Don’t be afraid to buy slightly larger items than your child needs – he or she will grow into them.

Anna Cargan, owner at Buildabundle, which sells second-hand children’s clothes, says: “As a full-time working parent myself I tend to buy five full sets of uniform so that I can wash and iron them all at the weekend (as I don’t have time to do it during the week with work).

“With three kids to buy for this can get expensive – and also means the uniform doesn’t get worn that often, because each set is only worn for seven hours once a week, and often is outgrown before being outworn. Buying some bits second-hand can save a fortune on the big school uniform bill for parents, and is also more sustainable.

“Our website sells plain generic non-logo items such as trousers, skirts and pinafore dresses, plus coats. We don’t do logo items as we are nationwide, however we are starting to see that more and more schools seem to be starting their own pre-loved uniform sales for their own logo items, which is great to see.”

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