Kitting out your child for their big adventure

From uniforms to PE kits, the cost of preparing a child for their first year of secondary school can be more than a little daunting for parents. 


But from swapping with other parents to buying second hand, there are ways to keep the bill down. It’s been estimated that parents spend upwards of £200 ahead of the new academic year on everything from trousers, skirts and shirts to PE kits.


Supermarkets have become a lifesaver for parents seeking to save on school uniforms with Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Marks & Spencer all offering a range of deals on basics.


While primary schools tend to be more flexible, secondary schools will sometimes require more items such as blazers and jumpers to be purchased from specified suppliers.


To make sure you are not caught off-guard, it’s always best to check what the school’s uniform policy requires beforehand. It can normally be found on their website along with  details of where you can buy items from. Many will have embroidered logos on the items making it hard for them to be purchased elsewhere. Also pay attention to the fine details such as the minimum length and permitted types of skirts and the styles of trousers that are allowed.


Shoes are a regular issue for parents as schools are very specific on what is required and students will be sent home for wearing the wrong footwear. It’s better to be absolutely sure that the shoes you are looking at will be allowed before you spend the money.


Spreading the cost throughout the year can help reduce the bill – just buy the essentials now and then top it up with other items as they are needed later in the year. Make the most of the end of season sales, consider buying your child a winter coat as the weather becomes milder so they have it ready for the autumn. You can buy it in a bigger size which gives them room to grow.


If your child has friends attending the same school consider buying some items in bulk to bring the cost down. Take advantage of three for two offers which you can share the cost of between you to make it cheaper.


Check Facebook to see if parents are selling any nearly new items as often children will outgrow clothing that still has plenty of wear left in it. 


If you are still struggling to cover the cost then some councils run grant schemes with cash available as long as certain conditions are met.


Bear in mind that your child may get involved in extra-curricular activities and there could be additional fees involved such as equipment, musical instruments and art supplies. 


Some schools or councils will subsidise activities like music lessons to help bring down the cost for parents as they want to make them accessible to all. It helps to find out early what these may be so you can budget for them.


School trips, while certainly educational and fun for your child, can be another strain on your finances and something worth planning ahead for. Although trips are optional, peer pressure can mean you feel you are left with little choice but to find the money. And the older your child gets, the more opportunities there will be for foreign trips which can be more costly. 


TOP TIPS TO KEEP COSTS DOWN


Shop during the summer: take advantage of ‘back to school’ offers during the six-week holiday as costs often rise when pupils are back at school 


Don’t leave it to the last minute: Shopping too close to the start of term could mean you miss out as some shops will have run out of stock or have less options in popular sizes


Cut the cost by swapping: Take to social media sites such as Facebook to see if parents are selling secondhand uniform or if you’re lucky they might even be giving away clothing that hasn’t been worn very often for free.

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