It’s that time of year again, just over a week before the children go back to school and it seems that we have to have endless pots of money to provide our children with the expensive uniforms that many schools, especially secondary schools expect them to wear. Compounded with that, there is also the added pressure of all the extras that are also demanded.
Admitting to others that the cost of buying school uniform is also very stigmatising and it prevents parents from admitting that they are struggling to cope.
As regular reader will already know, I live on a very low income and every year I’m confronted with this problem. Luckily my daughter is still at primary school, but believe me I used to have sleepless nights about this. I don’t anymore but I expect I might have next year when she will start secondary school.
In the past with my older children I used to be of the belief that because it was September and the start of a new school year, that they needed a full, completely new school uniform and accesories. I would go over the top in the uniform shop and supermarkets, buying everything new. That’s a habit that I had to stop out of necessity. I couldn’t afford it, so what was I going to do?
I then decided to assess what actually needed replacing. Clothes that didn’t fit anymore were put to one side, as were any ripped clothes etc. This still left me with a good, solid base of school uniform that could be easily worn once again when the school year started again. I would use white material brighteners (not bleach it leaves a yellow tone) on any dull shirts and then iron them well. They looked great. No one would know that they wern’t new.
So that left me with the uniform that I needed to replace. I like to buy two cheap shirts from a supermarket etc. Avoid uniform shops like the plague if you can. Often the quality of the uniform isn’t that good and the prices are expensive. My daughter likes to wear a new shirt on the first day, after that as long as it’s clean she isn’t that bothered as long as it fits.
I don’t know how I’ve managed this, but she had managed to fit into the same school skirt for two years. This is the first year that I’ve had to replace it and I found a plain skirt that actually fitted with room at a charity shop for a couple of pounds. I took it home, washed it, ironed it and it looks new. She also has some plain trousers that she wears when it gets cold and they still fit her and are in very good condition so they aren’t being replaced either.
The same applies to sports kit. I always buy an oversized t shirt, and stretchy legging material shorts. I often find these in places like Aldi and Asda. School pumps as well. If the previous terms uniform still fits then don’t buy new! There is no need.
I was then left with the task of sourcing new school socks, although only a few pairs because she still has her old socks that are in good condition. Instead of going to the local brand clothes shops, and a trip to Manchester was too expensive I decided to source her some from my local indoor market. I did this very easily, and found three pairs of knee length socks that actually reach the knees for a few pounds. Result. I saved on bus fares and complaints from the daughter that they aren’t long enough. Headaches spared as well then.
Buying underware, well she wears what she already has. There’s no need for new underware for school. That is unless it’s too small.
Always put names on your child’s school uniform. There is no need to buy expensive name tags etc either. Buy a set of Sharpies form the Poundshop, take the black or blue one and write their name inside their uniform. This also works better because labels can be taken off, Sharpie marks can’t so it might make the retrieval of lost school uniform easier.
School shoes. If your child’s school shoes are ruined beyond repair or don’t fit anymore then there is no reason why they can’t wear them again. Buy some cheap shoe polish, polish them and they will look like new. If their shoes still fit but are needing repair then go to a local cobblers and have them repaired. They will make them look like new again and your child will be happy because they fit and are comfy. I always repair shoes and it has saved me a fortune throughout the years, and is often much cheaper than buying new shoes. If new shoes are needed then look on Ebay, Amazon etc. You can find some really good bargains there. If you can’t do this then try a supermarket. Go for the better constructed ones with good soles because they will last longer.
School bags. Yes I know that it looks nice to have a new school bag, but when money is low have a think. Do they really need a new school bag? I only buy new ones when its necessary because I can’t afford to otherwise. Some bags can be washed in a washing machine or wiped down. This can really improve their appearance also.
School coat. If their coat still fits them and is in good repair then they can wear it again. It’s likely that a thick winter coat isn’t needed as soon as the new term starts anyway, so if a new coat is needed you could well find a good one in a charity shop or reduced in a shop. Expensive coats really aren’t needed, a warm cheaper coat is equally as good and if it gets damaged its easier to repair. Never buy expensive unless its a bargain in a charity shop.
I know that the pressure for children to wear expensive uniform at secondary school is unreal. Schools are demanding too much from parents, who are already struggling to afford to feed their children.
This is wrong and I totally disagree with it. Wearing posh logos on everything does not make a child study harder, behave better or pass exams. All I can suggest for this is to try and put a couple of quid away every week to buy this uniform. Also buy secondhand.
Ask at the school if there are any school uniform exchanges etc. If there isn’t any suggest it to the school. Also lobby your local MP and highlight the cost of school uniforms. Talk to other parents about it also, maybe putting pressure on the school will help them to change their policies. There is nothing wrong with a plain uniform that is cheap and easy to buy.
I always replace bits of school uniform as my daughter grows. I now never buy a full set every September, and I don’t loose any sleep over it. Children can and do look smart wearing a previous terms uniform and we can hardly afford to do anything else can we.
Enquire if there are any clothing banks local to yourself. If there aren’t then maybe start one. Check the local Facebook pages also I’ve had lot’s of bargains from these pages.
Apologies to anyone that might already be aware of these tips, I’m not wanting to preach to the converted so to speak. If anyone has any more suggestions please write them in the comments section. Thanks .
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