School uniforms are costly for families - but there is help out there for families who need it. Illustration: Lizzie Lomax
Kids outgrown their old school uniforms? The new school year can come at a hefty cost, but there are cheaper options and school uniform grants which might help.
According to a 2020 survey by the Children’s Society, parents spend an average of £337 a year on school uniforms for each secondary school child. For primary school pupils, the average cost is £315.
Research from George at Asda revealed 40% of UK parents send their child to school in old or worn uniforms that don’t fit them anymore, and more than half (53%) said that was because they simply could not afford new ones. More than a third (35%) said they knew their children felt embarrassed going to school because of their uniforms.
Some local authorities offer a school uniform grant to low-income families, but the support varies hugely depending on where you live. We have rounded up everything you need to know about getting support to cover the costs of school uniforms before term starts.
Can I get a school uniform grant?
Whether you can access a school uniforms grant depends on your local council. Some authorities across the country offer financial support to help families pay for school uniforms and clothing.
If you are based in England, you can check the government’s website and click on ‘contact your local council’ and enter your postcode to see if you can get a school uniforms grant in your area. You can also contact your local authority directly to see whether you can get a school uniform grant or any other support.
All councils across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland offer some form of grant to cover uniform costs. But whether you are eligible and the amount of money you will get depends on your postcode.
All councils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own version of a school clothing grant.
How much is the clothing allowance scheme in Northern Ireland?
In Northern Ireland, there is a clothing allowance scheme, which helps low-income families with children in primary, post-primary and special schools.
A uniform grant can pay £42.90 for a primary school pupil, £61.20 for a post-primary or special school pupil under the age of 15, and £67.20 for a post-primary school pupil over the age of 15. It will also cover £26.40 for a post-primary and special school PE kit.
How much is the school clothing grant in Scotland?
Families in Scotland may be able to get help through a school clothing grant. It’s normally a cash grant paid directly to your bank account. Check whether your local council offers help (and how much) by selecting your council from the dropdown menu on the Scottish government’s website.
How much is the schools essentials grant in Wales?
Low-income families in Wales can get help through the schools essentials grant. It’s intended to cover the costs of school uniform, IT equipment, stationery and school bag, PE kit, and specialist equipment for subjects such as design and technology.
Families can get £125 per student, and £200 for those beginning Year 7 because of the increased costs of starting secondary school. Families on certain benefits are eligible – usually, if your child is eligible for free school meals, they will also be eligible for the pupil development grant. Check your local authority’s website to see if you can apply.
The 2023 to 2024 scheme is now open and will close on 31 May, 2024.
How can I get help from my school to cover uniform costs?
If your local council doesn’t offer grants to cover school uniform costs, or if you are not eligible, the next step is to contact your school for help. Many schools offer support – including grants of their own, vouchers, or discount schemes. Most have second-hand sales, where you can get uniforms for a fraction of the price of new clothes.
Where else can I get cheap school uniforms?
Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and eBay are packed with plenty of cheap second-hand school uniforms – keep an eye out for a bargain deal. It’s worth trying charity shops in your local area too.
Supermarkets also have deals on uniforms. For example, at Aldi and Lidl, you can get a full school uniform for £5. Both deals include polo shirts, a sweatshirt and either a girl’s pleated skirt or boy’s trousers. Lidl will also donate 50p to the NSPCC.
Can I get a school uniform grant from a charity? ?
Charities offer grants through the year to help parents cover the costs of school. Grocery Aid has a school essentials grant, for example, which is closed for now but you can sign up for their newsletter for future grants updates.
Buttle UK has Chances for Children grants which can help cover the costs of school uniforms, but the charity only accepts applications for grants from frontline professionals – such as a registered charity, housing association or public sector organisation. It’s worth getting in touch with your local authority or school to see what grants they might be able to refer you to.
There are benefits to help families cover the costs of raising a child. You can use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to find out what you might be entitled to.
More help may be available through charitable grants to help you with the costs of sending your kids to school. Turn2us have a Grants Search where you can find out the grants available to you.
They also only accept applications from support workers – so if you think you might need help, it’s worth asking your housing support officer, local branch of Citizens Advice, a voluntary organisation or local authority officer.
Family Fund considers grant applications to help families with a disabled or severely ill child to help with costs. They work with gift card company Park Group to provide grants if a child or young person has additional clothing needs. Your grant can then be used in a select group of stores including TJ Hughes, Matalan, River Island, Schuh, Schuh Kids, TK Maxx, Shoezone, Go Outdoors, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Marks & Spencer, Foot Locker, New Look, Peacocks, Blacks, Millets and the Original Factory Shop. You can check if you meet the eligibility criteria on Family Fund’s website, which also has details about how to apply.
The Fashion and Textile Children’s Trust has a grant to help low-income families working in the UK fashion and textile industry who are struggling with the cost of going back to school. This includes people who have worked in high street clothes shops, in laundrettes and supermarkets with clothing lines.
Where can I donate school uniforms?
If your kids have grown out of uniforms that still have some life left in them, you could donate items to help others. Uniforms dropped at any of 20 Wacky Warehouses, found mainly in the Midlands and the South, between 17 July and 3 September, will be donated to charities chosen by each local venue as part of a new scheme.
In London, Recycle School Uniform CIC collects uniforms and re-sells at an affordable price, while an online search will bring up school uniform banks and donation bins in your area.
Many schools offer take-back schemes, allowing parents to donate old school uniforms at the end of the year, which are then sold at a reduced price to others. Check if your school has a scheme like this. If it doesn’t, you might even be able to get one going with other parents. Find out more about how to donate school uniforms.
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