10 Things to Take the Sting out of Back to School

I’ve just bought my 12 year olds’ uniform ready for back to school. I briefly cried what my father-in-law calls the ‘Yorkshire War Cry’, his saying not mine, he’s a Yorkshire man – “‘Ow Much!”

I’ve been buying school uniforms for 25 years. It struck me this time that I’ve moved from finding this time of year financially distressing, to being able to buy a school uniform without it breaking the bank.

Even though I had the savings set aside for this year’s, I was still mindful of the cost. I’m grateful that I can buy their uniforms without praying their feet wont grow and hoping beyond hope that they’ll be home each day with he same amount of kit that they left the house with.

Also relieved that I’m down to my 3rd and final school aged child.

Why are school uniforms so expensive?

A long overdue new bill was passed in the UK in April this year aimed at making school uniforms more affordable. Schools and suppliers should be working together to reduce the cost and look at the quality and quantity needed. The is meant to ensure that the children of families who can’t afford uniforms don’t then suffer isolation from peers and the school.

Even so, the average cost of a school uniform in the UK is over £300 per child. This is in part due to the quantity of items needed including PE Kit. This cost is compounded by replacements due to the speed at which they outgrow it – or lose it. This can be a real financial burden for families, especially with multiple school-aged children.

Use it, Don’t lose it

My sons have been a nightmare for losing school kit and this impacts the annual cost. The eldest had a senior school that didn’t provide lockers. Every pupil had to carry everything, everywhere, every day (read as lost a lot of stuff). My youngest, who has dyspraxia, finds getting changed and moving from A to B toll enough without memorising every item in order to keep track of it.

Short of stapling his blazer on, which would rattle most child protection agencies, I have to risk that, yet again, something, somewhere will go astray and that someone, somewhere has 3 PE socks to our 1.

So a plea from me, if your child accidently comes home with someone else’s kit, contact the parent and return it. You don’t know their financial situation and a returned blazer or trainers saving them a further £30-£50 and a whole heap of childhood trauma, may be the kindest gift you can give.

10 things to take the sting out of back to school costs

  1. Apply for a little known local government grant for support with school uniform costs. This is not available from all local authorities but if you are eligible to qualify, you could receive between £45 and £200 towards uniform costs per year.
  2. Visit school lost property at end of summer term and re-cycle unclaimed bigger uniforms
  3. Pass your child’s outgrown uniform on to someone else. They’re often barely worn due to the speed at which children grow so there’s usually a few months of life left in them.
  4. Sell outgrown uniforms (ebay/facebook marketplace) and put the proceeds towards future purchases.
  5. Buy from mainstream stores. Plain shirts, polo shirts, trousers are a fraction of the cost in supermarkets compared to specialist school shops.
  6. Glue and then sew in name labels on everything including socks and shoes.
  7. Give you child a checklist sewn into their bag so they can log items going back into kit bags.
  8. Create a saving fund for school costs and top it up each month. Aim to save enough for uniforms, replacement kits & non-uniform days. This spreads the cost to monthly rather than annually.
  9. Buy early, really early, in the new year if online providers offer a sale. This always magically triggered a sudden growth spurt in my children so buy big and buy a sewing kit!
  10. Sit down with your children and show them the uniform costs. Being aware of the expense and what’s involved in finding that money can help some children take a little more care. Incentivise them – if they take care of their kit you could share some of the remainder of the savings not spent on replacements. The remainder goes toward taking the sting out of next years back to school costs.

I’d love to know your top tips for taking the sting out of school costs, please add your tips and thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Thanks to Sarah who dropped a message saying to check out ‘School Uniform Exchanges’ in your local area. Run by volunteers and totally postcode dependant but worth a quick Google to see if there is one run in your area (or set one up if there is t!)

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