What the rising costs of school uniform means for city parents

Inside the Stevensons school uniform shop in Norwich 

Inside the Stevensons school uniform shop in Norwich - Credit: Ben Hardy

Parents have bemoaned the rising costs of school uniforms with the need to purchase logoed clothing meaning people are forking out as much as £300 to £700 for their children. 

With many schools now requesting students wear specific branded clothing items, parents have been unable to buy cheaper options from supermarkets. 

A Norwich parent, who did not wish to be named, said her 17-year-old son attended Notre Dame High School where the cost of the blazer has now increased to £45, having been £25 when he started in Year 7. 

Second hand uniform on sale at the Ketts Kabin Hethersett charity shop 

Second hand uniform on sale at the Ketts Kabin Hethersett charity shop - Credit: Ketts Kabin

She said: "My son did GCSE PE and that was, I think, nearly £100 for a bag, shorts and top which has GCSE PE words written on the back. The prices have definitely gone up." 

Other parents have found the need to buy stationary and maths sets on top of excursions and uniform as challenging, particularly given the nature of the pandemic situation with rising inflation and reduced wages. 

Sprowston's district councillor Natasha Harpley, who has children, said: "There is considerable disparity when it comes to uniform expenditure. 

Natasha Harpley, Broadland District Councillor for Sprowston has launched a petition calling on Firs

Natasha Harpley - Credit: Labour Party

"Some impose a strict list of items that are only available from select providers, including custom embroidery, yet others are okay with generic supermarket purchases." 

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The councillor spent more than £300 when her eldest daughter moved up to high school, but she has been able to pass much of this down to her younger sibling, except for skirts where the school's specification has changed. 

"With secondary education there is often the additional cost of scientific calculators, geometry sets, art equipment and other items that are unlikely to be available second hand or even cheaply," Ms Harpley added. 

Another parent Tim Kett, of Thorpe End, said his two daughters attended Thorpe St Andrew Academy where the students were previously instructed to wear uniform specifically from John Lewis, before the school changed to Stevensons in Ber Street last year. 

He also recalled his daughters being asked to bring in their own glue for artwork and paying for printing at the school as well. 

Stuart Allen, headteacher at Mile Cross Primary School, said his school's policy is that all pupils arrive in uniform or school colours, but the Brasier Road site has its own contract with a provider at cheaper rates. 

Stuart Allen, headteacher at Mile Cross Primary School, one of the schools that has been involved wi

Stuart Allen, headteacher of Mile Cross Primary School - Credit: Archant

The school has an internal second hand shop to sell stock such as sweatshirts and polo shirts for £1 to those who cannot afford first hand clothes. 

Mr Allen added: "If a child does not have the logo, we do not do anything about it given the current climate of the pandemic and everything going on.

"We make sure we work with the parents day-to-day and be as flexible as possible so they can afford the uniform."

And Ketts Kabin Hethersett charity store, which opened in October 2019, has also been providing affordable second hand uniform to parents in the area at a cost of just 50p for clothes and pencil cases for 10p. 

Ketts Kabin Hethersett

Ketts Kabin Hethersett - Credit: Ketts Kabin Hethersett

Founder Kassie Prime said: "We sell uniform every day due to the fact uniform is very expensive. We sell whatever comes in and it changes a lot."

Using an account on the Your School Uniform website shows a sweatshirt, blazer, trousers, PE shorts, PE shirt, a twin pack of shirts, tie, shoes, plimsolls, mouthguard, tracksuit trousers, rain jacket and socks would cost around £240 for boys and £231 for girls. 

A similar search for Hethersett Academy branded uniform through Stevensons works out as costing around £200, while Norwich Primary Academy is £129.50 as two randomly selected examples of schools in the city.

Sarah Garrett, manager of the Norwich branch of Stevensons said the store works closely with the Foundation of Joanna Scott and Anguish's Educational Foundation for those parents who require financial support. 

The manager said the last two years has seen more parents purchase uniforms online with the store being its busiest of the year from next week. 

Staff numbers have increased to 28 from seven in the winter to meet the current demand at the store. 

YouTuber's tips on saving on uniform 

A Taverham mother-of-two knows all about the cost of school uniforms and has recorded a YouTube video which will be released on Friday outlining top tips. 

Charlotte Jessop, whose finance blog is called Looking After Your Pennies, said making use of local Facebook groups is a useful tool for parents to source used clothing which is no longer needed by other parents. 

She also advised making use of second half shops, as well as seeing whether children will be able to squeeze an extra year of wear out of their clothes.

Mrs Jessop said: "There is a temptation when a kid is starting school just to go out and buy the new stuff because they do not want to be left out, but the reality is they will not be the only one as other parents will do the same."