Council leaders have called on schools to stop forcing parents into buying new uniform for kids by changing dress codes.

Parents and carers often foot huge bills when schools change logos or names on uniforms, as it can mean a whole new set of items have to be purchased.

In particular, the Local Government Association (LGA) says hard-pressed parents should not end up forking out for expensive uniforms because their child attends a school whose status changes. It's when this happens that uniform often changes.

With millions of children preparing to return to classrooms next week, and with some already back, the LGA says schools which decide to alter their uniform should restrict changes to one or two items or use sew-on logos to keep costs down.

The LGA also wants school uniform prices to be kept in check, and says schools should give parents as wide a choice as possible in where they buy uniforms, as greater choice will increase competition which should lower costs.

Parents can reduce the cost of uniform by buying generic outfits from supermarkets — if the school will let them. Our Cheap School Uniform guide has more information.

'No endless pot of cash'

Recent figures show that more than half of England's secondary schools have now converted to academy status.

Meanwhile, about 50 free schools, which are independent schools set up by parents, teachers and charities, are due to open from this September, and a further 102 from next year. Many of these are existing schools whose status is changing.

Councillor David Simmonds, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, says: "In the current education landscape dozens of schools across the country are changing their names or identities.

"It is understandable many will want to mark this, but they need to remember that parents do not have an endless pot of cash for new school clothing.

"Offering uniforms from a number of retailers and making it easier to attach logos to widely available clothing also lets schools keep their individuality while bringing in the necessary competition to keep costs down."

Cut uniform costs

Schools themselves don't set uniform prices, but they will decide what uniform is needed and this may restrict where items can be bought from, which can prevent competition among retailers.

The average annual cost of an entire secondary school uniform was over £200 in 2007, with primary outfits costing £160, also in 2007 — the most recent figures available, and excluding items such as sports kits.

Department for Education guidelines state school uniform should be affordable for everyone.

You can often get cheap generic uniform from supermarkets, rather than from a set supplier – if the school allows this.

At Tesco, for example, you can get a sweatshirt, polo shirt and a pair of trousers or a skirt from £4.50 (ages 3-16).

Aldi is also selling cheap primary and secondary school uniform, with a generic sweater, two plain polo shirts and a pleated skirt or trousers costing a total of £4. See our Cheap School Uniform guide for more deals.

Families who are on benefits or on a low income could also be entitled to clothing grants or vouchers from their local authorities to assist with the cost of school uniform. See Directgov for more information.