Parents rage at the cost of kitting out secondary school children

Parents say they can’t afford ‘astronomically high’ secondary school uniform costs – as it’s revealed the average price of kitting out a Year 7 pupil is now £337

  • An average secondary school uniform costs £337, with additional extras such as lab coats and science goggles adding more financial pressure for parents 
  • A Better Fit, a charity set up in Cardiff to help parents struggling with uniform costs, called the price of new secondary school uniforms ‘astronomically high’ 
  • Parents on Twitter have expressed concern at state schools insisting on clothes such as blazers and t-shirts carrying logos, saying uniform should be ‘a leveller’ 
  • Despite new Government guidelines in the pipeline designed to curb costs, schools could continue to recommend apparel carrying their logos 
  • Parents of primary school-aged children, which tend to have a more relaxed approach to uniform have benefited from supermarket deals
  • Aldi and Lidl are both currently selling two polo shirts for £1.75, with Asda offering two for £2.50, and Tesco selling three shirts for £4  

Parents of children heading to secondary school in September have revealed their anxieties over uniform prices during the cost of living crisis. 

Lab coats, cricket caps and socks carrying a school’s initials are just some of the items some parents might find on uniform lists for many state and independent schools across the country… alongside staples such as blazers, shirts and shoes.

Distinctive designs, logos on garments and strict rules on skirts and trousers ensure that parents often can’t opt for cheaper alternatives available on the high street.  

The average cost of a state school secondary school uniform is currently £337, with one UK uniform charity telling the BBC this week that demand for free uniforms has risen dramatically.

An average secondary school uniform costs £337, with additional extras such as lab coats and science goggles adding extra financial pressure for parents. Stock image

Expense: A blazer for students attending Aberdeen Grammar School will set parents back £103 – MailOnline has contacted the school for comment

Parents on Twitter have expressed anxiety at state and independent schools in the UK insisting on clothes such as blazers and t-shirts carrying logos (Pictured: uniform for leading UK state school Tiffin School in Surrey; a lab coat costs £18, while a sports shirt, right, is £25)

Thetford Academy in Norfolk prices its blazers – with the school’s name on the pocket – from £35

Despite new Government guidelines in the pipeline designed to curb costs, many schools currently only allow apparel carrying their logos, and request parents to buy them from specialist shops.  

The Department for Education estimated earlier this year that parents could save £50 by buying uniform from supermarkets or high street stores rather than specific uniform stores.

Parents of primary school-aged children, which tend to have a more relaxed approach to uniform, have benefited from supermarket price wars in recent years. 

Aldi and Lidl are both currently selling two polo shirts for £1.75, with Asda offering two for £2.50, and Tesco selling three shirts for £4.

However, pupils heading for secondary schools face being handed a uniform list, with more expensive liveried items still considered the norm. 

Prices on leading UK secondary school uniform supplier Stevensons show parents across the country face similar prices. 

A blazer for students attending Aberdeen Grammar School will set parents back a whopping £103, rising to £130 for a longer version – with both available from John Lewis or Stevensons. MailOnline has contacted the school for comment.

Parents have taken to social media to bemoan the sky-high costs and call for more support

Elsewhere, a distinctive sports polo shirt for Tiffin School in Surrey costs £25, while a black and purple polo shirt for students Eden Boys’ Leadership Academy in Birmingham costs £11.50 and can only be bought via a uniform shop.

Kathryn Wakeham, who runs the A Better Fit charity in Cardiff, told the BBC: ‘Most parents say they are able to source basics like the school trousers and polo shirts. But the cost of blazers and PE kits is astronomically high, and you need more than one.

‘And often there is a complete school uniform change when children move years, so you have to buy new, regardless of the size of the child.’

School uniform with distinctive designs mean parents are unable to buy more generic garments. Pictured:  A short sleeved polo shirt for children attending the Eden Boys’ Leadership Academy in Birmingham costs £11.50

A traditional blazer with a logo for a secondary school pupil costs around £40, with one pair of sports socks costing around £7.50 a pair. A jumper costs £22 and a tie costs £6

Parents have taken to social media to bemoan the sky-high costs, with one tweeting: ‘They talk about recession and poverty and the fact it’s so hard to get by these day but they expect to get expensive uniforms and school books that cost a lot it’s ridiculous.’

Another posted: ‘Price Of school uniforms is expensive, way too expensive.. then throw in the shoes, school bag etc etc… 

‘More needs to be done to help families who simply can’t afford to buy new stuff … the worry is kids getting hand me downs can sometimes be on the end of cruel taunts.’

A third added: ‘Can anyone explain to me why schools won’t provide sew on/iron on school badges so parents can buy standard supermarket polo shirts and jumpers and just add the badge? Why make hard up parents buy expensive uniforms?? And don’t start me on school PE kits.’

@CarolinaPostma commented that protest was needed to get schools to stop insisting on school uniforms with logos on them, saying: ‘I’d refuse to do it, see what happens and then challenge. 

‘Don’t just take it sitting down. If all the parents stood up to this they’d have to do something… at least try.’

In July, it was announced that from September 2022, schools would be banned from requiring unnecessary branded items on children’s clothing – but there have been two new Education Secretaries since the Government announced the rule, with James Cleverly currently in the role. 

Then Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that uniform shouldn’t be a ‘burden for parents or a barrier to pupils accessing education’ and that from the next academic year, schools will offer more high street and second-hand options for parents and children to source their uniform in a bid to make them more affordable.

It’s hoped the new statutory guidance means that households won’t have to spend as much money on dressing their children for school.

Best high street school uniforms for 2022 revealed: M&S takes the top spot in the UK for the second year running while Lidl comes last again 

M&S has once again been named the best British store for children’s school uniforms, a survey has shown.

British families have crowned the department store the best provider of school uniforms when taking into account price, quality and fit for the second year running – while the study shows uniforms have gone up in price almost everywhere.

As M&S enjoyed another year at the top, the last place remained the same with Lidl trailing behind competitors again in 2022.

Meanwhile George at Asda was voted Best Value School Uniform by testers and Tu at Sainsbury’s came out on top as the best of all supermarket offerings.

The survey, carried out by MadeForMums, asked judges and families to try out uniforms for their school-age children from various different supermarkets. 

MadeForMums ranked school uniform providers in the UK by the fit, quality and price of their products with M&S emerging a clear winner

Marks and Spencer came out on top as the best high street brand for selling school uniform

Lidl’s school uniform offering was ranked worst overall for the second year running

They were asked to compare how the uniforms fit their children, how they fared after being washed and how adaptable they were for different sizes and special needs. 

Researchers then asked 700 further families to comment on what they thought were the best value and quality school uniforms.

MadeForMums’ research found that almost 20% of parents spend around £100 on uniforms when their children start at a new school. 

Taking this into account as well as the rising cost of living, researchers also compared prices of uniform items in each store in 2022 and 2021.

Results showed M&S was still the most favoured British store for parents shopping for school uniforms with an overall rating of 8.55/10. 

Price comparisons of school uniforms from 2021 to 2022 showed almost all stores increased the cost of their items

Special mention was also given to Tu at Sainsbury’s, which won the accolade of best supermarket seller of school uniforms

The Best Value award went to George at Asda for its school uniform offerings

Coming in at a joint close second were Tu at Sainsbury’s and Next, which had an overall rating of 8.38.

While parents decided Next uniforms were a better fit, they agreed the Tu range was much better value for money.

Coming in just above Lidl was Gap – and while it didn’t come last, parents agreed overall its uniforms gave parents the least for their money.

MadeForMums also compared prices of uniforms in 2022 with the same study a year ago – with John Lewis ANYDAY and M&S being the only vendors to reduce the price of the items.

Parents shopping for their kids’ uniforms this year could make a saving of up to £4.50 in John Lewis and £3.40 in M&S compared to last year – whereas almost everywhere else has raised prices.  

However the total cost of uniforms in these stores are still far above their cheaper counterparts at around £17.

Although rated lower quality overall in the parents’ survey, a school uniform from Aldi costs just £4.63 for a polo shirt, sweater, trousers and socks. 

Susie Boone, editorial director of MadeForMums, said: ‘Pressures on household budgets means the challenge of where to shop for school uniform is being felt more than ever this year.’

She added: ‘Marks & Spencer was a worthy winner of Best High Street School Uniform with parents praising its “grow-proof” adjustable hems, designs for SEN and sensitivity needs, plus wash quality, fit and longevity.’


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