/ Parenting, Shopping

Expensive specialist school uniforms? No thanks!

The stress and expense of buying school uniforms is the bane of many parents’ lives. So should schools be allowed to make it even harder by dictating where parents should shop?

As kids break up from school and the summer fun begins, the inevitable task of purchasing a new school uniform for the year ahead hangs over parents. Looking for the best price is a key concern, and there are a number of great school uniform deals on the high street.

But the pressure is added to if your child’s school has stipulated that the uniform must come from a specific store, usually at a premium price.

The governing body for each school sets the policy for school uniforms, be that colour and style, which sometimes requires parents to fork out extra for a bespoke uniform.

Schools warned against school uniform costs

With more new schools and existing schools changing to become academies, the Local Government Association has raised concerns about added costs for parents as they ‘rebrand’ school uniforms.

The Department for Education stresses that all school governing bodies should create a policy that is fair and reasonable, with particular attention to parents’ often stretched finances. But are the policies always fair? Should schools have the power to make that directive?

Understandably each school wants to set itself apart from another and use the uniform rules as a way to instil good behaviour through best practice. But how much of the decision on the uniforms is affected by the often unavoidable feeling of competition between parents?

One-upmanship from parents keen to show their child or children as the best-dressed and behaved will always go on outside the school gates. Some children will be ostracised by their peers for not having the right kind of shoes or wearing a scruffy jumper that has clearly been worn by other family members before.

But this behaviour should be in no way encouraged by an askew uniform policy that cuts lower-income families out of what should be a fair playing field.

Complaining about your school’s uniform policy

If you have a complaint about the uniform policy at your child’s school, you have every right to raise it with the governing body to try and change their policy. But are parents listened to and involved? Will struggling families be unable to speak up for fear of embarrassment?

So what should, if anything, be done? Is there a problem that needs to be resolved? Maybe there should be a national uniform policy? Or do you think that individual school policies, even if they include specialist items, allow a school to stand above the rest?


I have absolute sympathy with parents who are frustrated and upset at being forced to shop in one place for uniform…..

BUT …..

This in NOT new.

I went to school between 1975 and 1988. Infants and Juniors had no uniform at all then, but from age 11 (1979) I had to wear uniform and ALL of the secondary schools to which I went had extremely strict uniform policies and their uniforms could ONLY be bought at specified shops.

I went to school in North East Derbyshire and ALL of my schools were the local LEA run ones – in the case of secondary schools quite average comprehensives – and the area was a steel working and mining community; readers will recollect that from 1980 and 1984 respectively these industries almost ceased to exist and so many of my peers came from homes where both parents were on long term unemployment benefit.

I’m not arguing a case FOR costly uniforms and restricted purchasing choices; I’m simply saying that this is nothing new and that many people have been though this before.

The only two things I will say in favour of maintaining strict uniform policies are that uniforms, even from single outlets, are almost always cheaper than fashion clothes, so they should be cheaper than sending your kids to school in the latest fashion which they will always demand to avoid bullying, AND having uniforms does help to avoid bullying issues. I make these comments as one who was bullied all though primary school, often over clothing and fashion issues, and with whom the bullying stayed for many years after, and as one who ha snow taught in schools (comprehensives) for 20-odd years and witnessed first hand the bullying that occurs over fashion and trends in schools with no uniform policy.

I don’t have an answer to the problem I’m afraid: commercial market forces mean that when someone is forced to buy a specific product suppliers will always charge a premium for that product knowing that there is a market at whatever price – I don’t know how we can change that.

Fifty years on and I am still wearing my old school tie twice a year so it’s not all poor value.

I am very much in favour of school uniforms, including shoes. It means that there can be no competition between the pupils for the latest fashion item – which is invariable expensive and can put huge pressure on cash-strapped parents to ensure that their young are not singled out for comment, sniggering, etc. Rules in place – no argument. However, I do NOT believe that schools should stipulate where the items are bought. If a blazer /jacket requires a badge, then the individual school
should stock them = at reasonable non-profit price.

Helen greaves says:
17 November 2012

My child’s primary school has is in the process of becoming an academy, it has changed the uniform policy which I don’t have a problem with. My issue is that both the jumper and
The polo Teeshirt have to have a school logo the jumper costs are around 10 pound each
Supermarkets are charging as low as 2 pound in some instances due to competition.
With the school being the ONLY supplier this cuts outs competition. Also the polo needing
To be looted too seems very unreasonable as these average at around 1 pound
Each but at the school they are approximately 5 pound 5x the cost of a supermarket
Brand. I live in a area where income is low and children per family is high.
Is there any way of getting around this ?

Tish Naughton says:
17 June 2015

I go to my school tonight where there is an “opportunity” to purchase bespoke uniforms. My issue is that the supplier of the uniform is not listed. The uniform requirement is specified by the sponsor . The sponsor is a charitable trust but its overarching body is a multi-national company. If it turns out the uniforms are forming part of a profitable venture for a partner company this raises a difficult issue for me ‘ I boycott companies I don’t feel are ethical and making money out of schools is not ethical to me..(and yes I know why am I sending him.. the academy status crept in during the summer when my first son attended and it left me with the Hobson’s choice that is “parental choice”…). This is creeping privatisation in our school system… Why is there a conspiracy of silence

Tish, we should have a standard national colour range for school uniforms with sew-on badges so parents can choose their supplier and not have to pay through the nose for “bespoke” clothing. There is no need for it, although I am a supporter of basic uniforms to avoid dress oneupmanship. But at sensible prices.