Want to spend less on getting your children kitted out in school uniform? You’re in luck! The cost of children’s clothing has never been so low with major high street players such as Marks and Spencer reducing their costs to come into line with cut price retailers and supermarkets who are able to “pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap”.
In spite of considerable debate over the years as to the benefits, or not, of school uniforms, it’s still the case that most schools prefer to have some kind of uniform, whether that be a full uniform or just a sweatshirt with the school name embroidered on it; when it’s the latter, the sweatshirt is usually bought directly from the school and there is little scope for saving money unless you can get cast offs from an older child who attends or has attended the same school.
At one time grandmothers would get out the needles and wool and set to knitting cardigans and sweaters but the homemade look is more often than not spurned these days, and, besides, the store prices are so cheap that they are hard to beat.
If, on the other hand, your child is required to wear a full uniform, it pays to shop around to get the best value for money. These days the shops seem to be advertising their new uniform collections before the summer term has even finished and try to tempt mums with promotional prices for buying early. However, it doesn’t pay to buy too early because children can grow quickly and what fits in July, may not look so good come September.
Items such as blouses and shirts are now available quite cheaply and you should think about buying them one size too large so that your child gets more wear from them. Skirts, dresses and trousers can always be taken up, then let down again when needed. Buy simple styles that can stand to be altered and that can be passed down to younger siblings without looking dated.
Look for fabrics that wash well and need the minimum of care. More expensive items such as blazers, sweaters and girls’ summer dresses are the sorts of items that you may be able to buy second hand, pass down to younger children, or pick up from parents of children who have now left the school or have outgrown the clothes. You can easily unpick the badge from a second hand blazer and replace it with that of your child’s school.
Families with low incomes may qualify for assistance with the cost of school uniforms. However, this is not a nationwide scheme and the system is discretionary at best. The head-teacher and governors of each school have the final decision in what the uniform will consist of and, in certain cases where specific items are listed, the stores in which the items can be bought. The governors should strive to ensure that the uniform is affordable to all parents but some parents find that their school has entered into a contract with an expensive local supplier. There are no clearly defined criteria for who is eligible for financial assistance; each local education authority sets its own rules. Assistance comes in the form of a grant or, more commonly, vouchers that can be used at a number of high street stores. To find out whether they are eligible for assistance with school uniform costs, parents should contact their local education authority through their local council.
Parents will make their own minds up as to the quality of low cost uniforms. If you intend to pass down items to younger siblings, you may wish to spend a little more money to purchase items that will wash better and last longer. There may be some very cheap options out there but balancing the ethics with cost is something that depends on the individual. Supermarket chains competing to offer the cheapest prices include TESCO and ASDA while on the high street Marks and Spencer have responded to their rivals by producing a budget range of uniform essentials and offering multi-buy deals.
Above all, know what you are looking for. Most schools produce a list of required or acceptable items which you should take with you when you go shopping to make sure you buy only what you need. If possible shop without the kids who will more than likely put pressure on parents to buy items that stretch the guidelines to their very limits.