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Cost of school uniform set to fall in England due to new law

The cost of buying school uniform for children in England could fall later this year after a new law was passed which will mean schools must try to keep prices down and keep branded items to a minimum.

Under the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill, which was rubber stamped by Parliament on Thursday (29 April), the Government will set statutory guidance schools must by law consider when developing their uniform policies. The guidance, to be published this autumn, will require schools to:

  • Make sure contracts with uniform suppliers are competitive and transparent in order to keep costs down.
  • Consider the quality and longevity of garments, alongside their cost.
  • Consider high street alternatives instead of branded-items, which can be pricey.
  • Encourage the use of second-hand uniform. 
  • Ensure parents have access to clear information about uniform policies.

The Department for Education says it's too early at this stage to say exactly how the guidance will work in practice or how much parents and guardians may save, but it says the focus will be on ensuring costs are reasonable for families of all backgrounds and that uniforms give the best value for money.

See our Cheap School Uniform Deals page for help on finding cheap uniform, including where to buy a full generic school uniform from £10. 

'This new law will help to save families money'

The new law was first introduced as a Private Members’ Bill by Labour MP Mike Amesbury and received cross-party support to become law. Commenting on its introduction, school standards minister Nick Gibb said: "This new law will help to save families money and ensure the cost of a blazer or shirt is never a barrier to accessing the best possible education."

Parents with children in state maintained schools spent on average £337/yr on school uniform for each secondary school child and £315/yr for each primary school child, according to a 2020 survey by charity The Children's Society of 1,000 parents across the UK. That's more than three times what parents told The Children's Society they felt was a reasonable cost for primary (£85) and secondary (£105) uniform.

How to cut the cost of school uniform

While the new law should help cut some of the cost from this autumn, there are lots more ways to keep the expense of buying uniform manageable. Here are a few key tips:

  • Check if you can get help from your local council or school. If you live in England and you're struggling with the cost of school uniform, check if your local council provides help using the Government's postcode checker tool. This support isn't available everywhere, so if your council does not offer help, ask your child’s school directly.

    The situation is slightly different if you live in Northern IrelandScotland or Wales as here, grants are available in all areas for those on a low income. See our guide to Cutting School Uniform Costs for full info.  

  • Bag cheap supermarket school uniforms. These are plain coloured clothes with no unique school badges, and can be excellent value if your child's school allows generic uniforms. And even if you do need items with a logo, sometimes it's cheaper to buy a generic sweatshirt and iron on a badge yourself – this can work out cheaper than official sweatshirts. See our Cheap school uniform deals page for a round-up of some of the best bargains.

  • Keep an eye out for sales. You can often get 20% or 25% off school uniform when M&S and Tu (Sainsbury's) do their blanket clothing discounts a few times a year.

  • Buy second-hand uniforms from your school. Ask about your school's second-hand school uniform sales, which usually happen a few times a year. Sometimes you can be lucky and grab bargain uniform for just a few quid.

  • Check local Facebook groups and other online marketplaces. eBay and Facebook Marketplace can be a treasure trove – look out for bundles. In the past, we've spotted a bundle of five M&S summer gingham dresses for £1.65.

For more help, see Cutting school uniform costs and Cheap school uniform deals.

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