Back to school: 12 top tips for buying school uniform

Last modified on Friday 25 August 2023

It’s that time of year again! Swot up with our 12 tips for buying school uniform to save money and

Shopping for school uniform can be a time-consuming task and to top it all, it can also cost a fortune.

So, to give you a helping hand, we’ve gathered together some great school uniform tips that every parent needs to know before hitting the shops.

1. Do a school uniform audit and make a shopping list!

Before you go shopping for school uniform, check your kids' wardrobes and drawers to see what you already have.

You don't need to buy a full new school uniform in one go. You might find some items still have a few months' wear in them, meaning you can spread the cost and buy items later in the year.

If your child is starting a new school and you're not sure what they'll need, ask the school for a uniform list so you can make sure you're not missing anything.

You can also check out our ultimate back-to-school checklist to make sure you've got all the essentials.

2. Work out how many sets of uniform you'll need

The amount of uniform you'll need depends on your budget and how often you're prepared to put a wash on, but it's a good idea to have at least two of everything as your child WILL get messy at school. Particularly if they're painting or doing craft activities.

Some schools let kids wear their PE kit all day on PE days, which can save on the amount of uniform you need, so it's always worth checking the rules.

3 Check supermarkets and high street shops for special offers

Buying school uniform at a supermarket or high street store is always great value – they often have special offers, discounts and BOGOFs and are competing with each other to offer the best value.

Being able to buy it cheaply means you can buy more, so you'll always have an extra shirt or pair of socks if disaster strikes. 

To make sure you get the best bargains, follow supermarkets such as Aldi, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and high street stores like M&S, Primark, Next, John Lewis and Matalan on social media so you're one of the first to know when the back-to-school discounts hit.

(M&S has a shwop scheme where you 20% off kids daywear when you donate a preloved school uniform.)

4 Make sure there's room to grow

It won't come as a surprise to you, but kids grow REALLY fast.

No one wants to rock up on the first day of term with a floor-length skirt or comedy turn-ups on their trousers, but making sure there's a bit of growing room saves money and keeps your child comfortable over the coming weeks and months without having to g.

That’s what adjustable waists were made for.

5. Consider preloved school uniform

Since kids grow so fast, secondhand school uniforms can be great bargains and in great condition. This can be a godsend for expensive branded uniform items, blazers with logos or uniforms featuring unusual colours.

Places to source secondhand school uniforms include:

  • The school itself – check emails and parent pages on the school site for organised sales
  • Parents groups for your child's school – typically on Facebook or WhatsApp
  • Your local council – many councils arrange pop-up swap shops for parents
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • eBay
  • Charity shops

6 The details to check when buying school uniform

It’s the little things that matter when you’re shopping for school uniform. 

We all know children don’t just wear clothes, they wear them into the ground.

For active kids

Look for design details like reinforced knees, meaning that trousers will last twice as long, even with the rough and tumble of everyday wear.

For younger children

Pull-on skirts and trousers and elasticated cuffs on long sleeve shirts will help younger children dress themselves. (This makes a WHOLE world of difference on PE days when dressing and undressing can take longer than the actual lesson!)

For children with sensory needs

Many retailers now offer adaptive school uniform ranges designed for children with sensory needs, such as autism.

George at Asda's Easy On Easy Wear range, for example, has easy fastenings and skin-kind fabric for those who are sensitive to certain fabrics and design features such as scratchy labels. Plus George at Asda School Uniform is Netmums Recommended by parents who have tested it: see why parents love it.

M&S also offers a Kids Easy Dressing range made with super-soft materials and without zips, buttons or labels to make dressing easier – see more details here.

7 Check the washing instructions

ALWAYS buy school clothes made with stain-resistant fabric, especially if your child's uniform includes white shirts. You want to be able to chuck it in the laundry without worrying about it wearing out.

And NEVER buy school uniform that needs ironing – you won't have the time.

8 Buying school shoes

Scuff-resistant shoes are a must, especially for very young children, as they cope better with rough and tumble playground games.

Buying inexpensive shoes that can get bashed about can sometimes be your best bet, just always get your child to try them on first and never guess their size, always get their feet measured.

Buy a few weeks before school to give your child time to wear them in.

Another tip if your child is in reception is to buy shoes with Velcro straps so they don’t have to worry about fiddly buckles or laces.

9. Label everything!

There's no point carefully choosing your child's school uniform if they leave it at school on the first day. Make sure you label EVERYTHING (including their PE kit and shoes) to avoid them coming home with someone else's much older and more worn jumper.

Easy 2 Name has a great range on stick on and sew on name labels for clothes, shoes, bags and bottles – see more details here.

10. Go for dark socks and tights

if your school offers a choice of sock colours, go for the darker option! White socks get grubby in no time and don't stay white for long.

11. Order logo items early

If you have to buy certain items of school uniform – such as logo blazers, ties or embroidered polo shirts – from a specific school supplier, make sure you order early. They can sometimes take a while to arrive if you have to preorder and sizes can sell out.

12. Get help with the cost of school uniform

If you're struggling with the cost of school uniform and PE kit, you might be able to get a school uniform grant from your local council.

You can check to see if your council offers the service here.

If you're a low income family and your council doesn't offer grants, it's a good idea to speak to your child's school directly. They may be able to offer some help if you're struggling with costs or advise you of any local school uniform schemes and charities.

How much do you spend on school uniform? How do you budget for it? Share your school uniform tips with other parents in our Forum below…

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