Questioning the cost of school uniform

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With the approach of a new school term, I recently joined many parents in buying new school uniform for Helen and Izzy. Cardigans, polo shirts, PE kits, coats and so on were all bought at great expense and left me asking a question: Whatever happened to the simple, sew-on school patch? The cost of school uniform is a real burden and a patch would surely be the easiest way to make it more affordable.

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Displaying an assortment of sew-on school patches. Surely this is one way to keep the cost of school uniform under control?

Well, okay, actually, credit for asking that question has to go to one of my readers, Debbie, who writes the blog Deb’s Random Writings. I happened to make a comment on Twitter about the amount I was spending and Debbie, who has older children, queried why schools didn’t insist on school patches instead of using prescriptive lists with large numbers of embroidered or embossed items.

It’s a particularly pertinent question for my kids as their school uniform is changing this academic year. Previously, the number of items embroidered with the school’s logo was minimal. Not so any longer. With the start of the 2019/20 academic year, most items must bear the logo in some form and the cost of school uniform has increased as a result.

I didn’t think this was a big deal at first. When I started paying for the uniform, however, I noticed a huge difference. The cost of these monogrammed items is considerably more than the generic items I used to buy. I used to pay £3 per piece for polo shirts. That’s now risen to £11.

Over the holidays I found myself in a school uniform shop with the kids. I noticed a hockey skirt I could buy elsewhere with no logo for £5 was selling for £20 simply because it had a school’s name embossed on it (I should add this item of uniform was for a different establishment, not my kids’ school). I was horrified when I saw the price tag. That’s a phenomenal mark-up and one I didn’t feel was justifiable.

I’ve written about school uniform many times on this blog. I am a big supporter of uniform, but I’ve long said the clothes we expect kids to go to school In are ridiculous. Uniform often restricts movement, doesn’t encourage kids to be active and for girls, uniform is often outright discriminatory.

As a family, we’ve obviously had to pay for uniform but I’ve never previously felt the cost was excessive. I’ve certainly changed my opinion on that!

It strikes me an entire school uniform industry has been created where one did not exist before. Where a simple sew-on or iron-on patch would suffice, us mums and dads must instead pay out for individually embroidered items.

I also wonder whether the rise of the academy school is part of the issue. With their corporate outlook and corporate approach to branding, I am suspicious these schools have ridiculous expectations of what their pupils should be wearing.

It all seems a bit wrong. It goes without saying the need to buy expensive uniform hits those who can least afford it hardest.

It would be irritating to spend time sewing patches on the kids’ clothes, very irritating indeed. That said, I’d rather spend the time practicing my sewing skills and be left with more money in my bank account.

What do you think? Do you think the cost of school uniform is too high? Should schools insist kids where embroiled items or do you think a sew-on patch should be enough? Maybe you have spent a fortune on uniform for this academic year? Whatever your story or thoughts, please leave a comment below.

5 thoughts on “Questioning the cost of school uniform”

  1. It is crazy the cost. Both my boys go to primary school and we have only just got an answer as we emailled them them to clarify. They didn’t verbally say yes or no to whether we could buy plain uniform or school logo uniform.

    I wish they made that clear from day one as it could help a lot of parents and save a small fortune.

    1. Of the school wouldn’t respond verbally? Probably hoping you’d buy the logoed uniform anyway! Well done for checking. My eldest starts at secondary school next year. That’s when things are going to get really expensive I think. Send help!

  2. Hi John, I’ve finally made it across to read your post and can’t believe how many posts you’ve written since this one (you’re a blogging machine!)! I’m quite flattered that something I questioned inspired you to write this and thank you for the mention!… I too believe school uniforms or dress codes are a good thing, it puts children on an even keel, so too speak. Reducing pressure on children whose families may not be able to afford the trendiest or most recent clothes fads… The price differences you’ve shared are ridiculous £3.00 to £11.00 just for a bit of unnecessary embroidery? At the end of the day, education shouldn’t be about expensive uniforms, surely whether a child has a sew-on badge or an embroidered badge shouldn’t be an issue and if it is then schools should opt for the cheaper option… I do worry though that the ridiculously cheap clothes are being made by three-year-olds in sweatshops working 18 hour days.


    1. Your final point there, Debbie, is one I have often thought about. In fact I will, as a rule, shop for uniform at suppliers who publicly state they known all about their supply chain to avoid the whole sweat shop issue. that often means paying a bit more. it also comes with a fringe benefit: The products are usually cotton or have a higher percentage of cotton in the clothing as opposed to man made fibres! I’m not too sure what the supermarkets do for their generic uniform items but I often wonder if they sell them at a loss simply to get parents through the doors.

  3. Like to glad to see this posts in raising the costs of school uniforms.Cost of school uniforms should be in range so that everyone can afford the uniforms. It should not be very expensive nor cheap, it should be in budget.
    For budget uniforms, visit us at thegeniusuniforms.com

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