The government has introduced a new law to lower the costs of uniforms as schools reopen this September, but as the cost of living crisis drives up prices some parents are still struggling to make ends meet.
Under the new rules, schools in England must ensure that school uniform costs are “reasonable” by removing “unnecessary” branded items and allowing children to wear high-street options, like supermarket brand uniforms.
The Department of Education also made it obligatory for schools to make sure that secondhand uniforms are available to parents.
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said the change in law will “make uniforms far more affordable for famililies by driving costs down”.
“School uniform provides a sense of identity and community for children and young people, and should be a real source of pride. But it must never be a burden for parents or a barrier to pupils accessing education,” he said.
However, two key loopholes in the law mean some parents have not been able to benefit from the change.
While schools are “expected” to have taken steps to change uniform guidelines by September 2022, the government said they have until December 2022 to secure a new contract with a uniform supplier.
This means many parents would still have to fork out for the old, branded uniform this September.
Additionally, the change in law does not ban all branded items, which means schools can still require children to wear some items bearing their logo, such as a school blazer.
A survey by The Schoolwear Association found that the average cost of school uniform per child in 2021 was £93.
Reena Sewraz, a money expert at Which? commented: “School uniforms are a significant expense – especially if you have more than one child – and with household budgets being squeezed due to the cost of living crisis, many parents will be looking for ways to cut the cost.
“It’s worth searching for second-hand uniforms via your child’s school Parent Teacher Association . If you’re buying items in multipacks, check the individual prices to make sure they’re a genuine bargain. There are lots of good deals and offers on uniforms at the moment, so shop around to find the best prices.”
We’ve compiled a list of handy tips to help you save money on uniforms.
Check if you are eligible for a grant
Some parents may be eligible for a grant to help pay for school uniforms and PE kits. The eligibility criteria and the amount available will vary in areas across the country and are determined by the local council
Some councils only provide support to people at risk of homelessness, those living in a refuge or those who have been a victim of a fire or a flood.
Other councils provide support for parents who have a low annual income or receive income support or Job Seeker’s allowance.
You can check your local area’s eligibility criteria here.
One common complaint among parents of school children is the number of uniform items that get lost or misplaced.
Some parents may like to buy iron-on labels for their children’s items. While these may seem like an added cost, they can be bought in multipacks and help reduce the number of missing items.
As most children experience growth spurts during puberty, you may feel you have wasted your money on a uniform that will soon be too small.
Experts recommend sizing up one or two sizes on items such as blazers and trousers. Children tend to get away with a blazer that is a little big, especially when a shirt and jumper is layered underneath.
Long trousers can also be taken up to fit your child, and the hem can later be let down as they grow.
Some supermarkets have designed ranges with this in mind. Marks & Spencer sells trousers with a “grow-proof hem” which are made with extra length. The hem can easily be taken down by unpicking it and pressing it with an iron.
Don’t be afraid to buy secondhand
Experts at consumer rights company Which? recommend that parents check if their school’s PTA has a secondhand selling group. One parent told Which? their school organised an event selling uniform items for 25 per cent cheaper than sale price.
If you’re school doesn’t have one of these events, you could check if parents in your local area are selling old items on apps such as Facebook Marketplace.
Search for deals
As September approaches, many retailers are offering deals and discounts on school uniforms. Aldi is selling a girls pleated skirt for just £1.75, while Tesco is selling multipacks of three easy iron shirts for £5.50.