ABC fridge magnets spell 'back to school'

“School’s out for summer…” by Alice Cooper brought joy to the hearts of many pupils up and down the land. However, for parents those words bring dread and fear. Parents know that school is only out for a time, be it six or eight weeks. School’s out is always followed by the annual ritual of the school uniform purchase for the new school year. Herein lies the pain for parents. The cost of school uniform seems to be following the pattern of our children, ever increasing, whereas parents’ income does not seem to move in the same direction.

In addition the items on the school uniform list seems to be forever growing and adding to the pressure on parents. In yesteryear a blazer, few shirts or blouses, trousers or skirts, socks, a games kit, a bag stuffed with some pen, pencils and perhaps a calculator was the limit. In 2015, the calculator has been replaced by a whole new array of electronic gadgetry. Whether they all enhance the educational or learning experience of our children is hotly debated. Whatever, the situation parents are often under pressure to meet the increasing cost of the school uniform refit.

Some parents and readers may be surprised by the findings of the recent report “Cost of school uniform June 2015.”

“Once the 2007 costs have been adjusted for inflation, the average cost of all but one item of uniform has decreased since 2007. The single item of uniform which has increased in cost is a schoolbag.”

The report also highlighted ”the average total expenditure on school uniform for the 2014/15 school year to date (so up to the end of February 2015) was £212.88”

Whilst the entire report is interesting reading it is at odds with other research on school uniform costs and the experience of many parents’ experiences. Whatever the research findings parents are finding school uniform purchase a financial strain at this time of the year. Pressures on the income of parents requires them to be more purchase savvy when sourcing school uniform items.

The following five strategies may help ease the pain when engaging in the annual ritual of school uniform purchase.

  1. Every item on the list from the school does not have to be purchased and in place by the first day of term. Why purchase a summer sports item ready for the autumn term? Parents must rank items on the school uniform list into essentials and non-essentials or required by start of autumn term or can buy later.
  1. It is not mandatory to buy any or every item on the school uniform list from the highly recommended school outfitters often at prices that seem to be in the stratosphere in comparison to some household supermarkets or non-school recommended clothing retailers.
  1. Must you buy every item brand new? Increasingly, schools stock previously used uniform items which can be purchased at a fraction of the price of a brand new item. Parents need to exercise their judgement on this matter and speak to other parents and the school.
  1. School uniform purchase should not be a ritualistic experience crammed into three months June – August. Parents can save pounds by buying items of uniform piecemeal throughout the year during periods of special offers and sales.
  1. Consider the practise of purchasing school uniform with growing room. There is never any harm in buying an item that allows for the growth of our children. Many parents themselves are products of such an experience.

School’s out for summer, but school uniform purchase should not necessarily leave parents out of cash.

David Frederick
Marcus Bishop Associates

This feature first appeared in the August 2015 issues of SE21 and SE22 magazines.