Time to go back to school - but at what cost?

School uniforms cost parents in the Humber and Yorkshire region just 45p per day on average, and the real drain on many family budgets is what children wear when they’re not in school, according to new research.
School uniform from Sainsbury's.School uniform from Sainsbury's.
School uniform from Sainsbury's.

The back-to-school uniform shop is almost upon us, with parents rushing to pick up their children’s outfits for the new term.

For some, it may be a grudge purchase, but new research by Oxford Brookes University reveals the average secondary school outfit in the North Lincolnshire region comes in at a modest £88.05 – or just 45 pence per school day.

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When the costs of PE kit is added, the total averages £127.32.

But a poll of parents shows they typically spend more on outfits their children wear outside school than they do on uniform, with almost half dressing their children in high street and designer fashions.

The average non-uniform outfit came in at £113.

The Schoolwear Association, which represents all those involved in the manufacture, retail and supply of school-specific uniform, commissioned the research to find out the average cost of a full school uniform bought when a child starts a new school, alongside a survey of parents by OnePoll which looked at what children wear when they are not in uniform.

Chairman David Burgess said: “For hard-pressed families, school uniform represents real value, especially when compared with the outfits children would choose to wear when they are out of school.

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“In fact, it can be even better value than these figures suggest, because many items last more than a year, particularly blazers which are typically the most expensive uniform item.

“We completely understand that for the poorest in society, uniform is a significant expense, but most schools have arrangements in place to help, and many of our members contribute to those schemes by providing free uniform for those in need.

“Most parents can afford to buy their children’s uniform, and like teachers, they agree that quality, school-specific uniform contributes to better education and behaviour.

“It is a worthwhile investment, and we believe every child is worth it.”

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Lynn McBain, consultant researcher at Oxford Brookes University, said: “School uniform has a modest cost, especially given the amount of time children spend wearing it, and almost certainly represents better value than non-uniform clothes.

“The cost to parents is relatively small when you weigh up the usage it gets and the added benefits it provides, which include pride in appearance and a sense of belonging to a school.”

The research puts the average price of a full primary school uniform in the UK at £33.48 with secondary school uniform at £88.05. Adding PE kit put the figures up to £42.32 for primary and £127.32 for secondary.

The Schoolwear Association points out that on average schoolchildren wear their uniform for 10 hours a day, nearly 2,000 hours a year, but parents spend more on clothing that their children wear less – only during school holidays, weekends and in the evenings.

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Established in 2006, the Schoolwear Association is a voluntary body of members including suppliers, retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers whose members collectively clothe more than three-quarters of Britain’s schoolchildren.

Its code of practice requires members to ensure that garments are produced in an ethical manner, both in terms of employment and attitude to the environment.