UK households are struggling with the growing cost of school uniform, new research reveals

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The back-to-school period is a stressful time for parents and carers, and the current cost-of-living crisis is only set to add to this pressure.

Looking to understand the situation parents face this September, affordable footwear retailer Wynsors, carried out a new survey of more than 1,000 UK parents to understand exactly how much the cost of school uniform is affecting their finances.

The results do not paint a positive picture for households across the UK, with 76% of parents agreeing that the cost of buying school uniform and supplies puts a strain on their household budget and more than 1 in 3 (37%) stating that they receive no financial support with the cost of new school uniform but need it.

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Lewis, father of two from Heaton Moor, blames unexpected uniform costs: “Although the cost of general uniform has increased, we are also feeling the pinch when it comes to unexpected things such as ‘forest school outdoor wear’ or ‘specific PE kits’. Our average cost per child has risen from £120 to £150 this year.”

Data visualization showing how parents stretch their budgets to cover the cost of school uniform.Data visualization showing how parents stretch their budgets to cover the cost of school uniform.
Data visualization showing how parents stretch their budgets to cover the cost of school uniform.

To help try and stretch their household budgets, parents are making cutbacks elsewhere. Over half of parents (56%) are spending less on new things for themselves (such as clothing), and 1 in 5 are going as far as to opt for shorter or cheaper holidays to do so.

Colette, a single mum from Romiley, explains: “The price of school clothes is a big concern, especially after summer holidays. It’s an extra cost that I certainly cannot afford as a single parent. This has affected what I can do in the school holidays with my son.”

The Department of Education recently made it mandatory for schools to make sure that second-hand uniforms were available to parents, and 20% of parents are buying second-hand to help try and save costs.

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But is this enough? Just over half (52%) of parents agree that abolishing school uniforms would help save them money.

Claire, mother of one from Manchester, doesn’t agree: “Uniform gives all children at school a level playing field without some wearing branded and some wearing hand me downs. Children can be so cruel, especially in high school, taking away the uniform could open up vulnerable, less well-off children to more bullying.”

With Martin Lewis urging those entitled to school uniform cash grants to make sure they claim them before the deadline, and with September looming ever closer, parents across the UK are feeling the strain.

Adam Foster, Retail Director for Wynsors, comments: "While the summer holidays normally offer a chance for families to relax after a long school year, parents will also be using this time to head to the shops to buy uniform and new school supplies.

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This can often be a stressful and expensive experience as highlighted by our research, and as the cost-of-living crisis continues to put pressure on household budgets, we want to take the stress out of the shopping experience by making school uniform accessible to all."

The full research, including more information on parents’ attitudes to school uniform and tips for saving money on the back-to-school shop, can be found on the Wynsors website.