School uniforms are often a costly expense, even more so now that many parents and guardians are still struggling with the financial difficulties brought on by the pandemic. According to a 2020 survey by The Children’s Society, it is estimated that parents spend an average of £337 per year on school uniforms for each secondary school child and £315 per year for each primary school child.
After the summer holidays, many parents will be forced to fork out hundreds of pounds to pay for their children’s new school uniforms. With many parents still unsure of how they are going to afford new school uniforms, as they were already struggling to do so before the pandemic, and now with the increased financial difficulty, the stress is becoming unbearable.
According to a new bill, which received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021, schools are now required to follow new statutory guidance on uniform costs, which will make uniforms more affordable.
Can I get help with school uniform costs?
Parents and guardians of school children can access a support grant of up to £150 to help towards school uniform costs, if they are under financial strain.
Under the Education Act 1990, councils may provide financial help toward the cost of school uniforms to parents or guardians on low incomes. Access to this grant, however, depends on whether you are entitled to a school uniform grant and if it is available from your council. Some councils are unable to offer this grant or have been forced to reduce it in recent years due to funding rows.
In England, the school uniform grant is not a statutory requirement, this means that it is not a requirement by law for councils to provide the funding. The system is, however, different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the councils are required by law to offer assistance.
In Wales, all councils are required to provide a £125 grant towards uniform and sports kit costs, while councils in Scotland are required to provide grants of at least £100 to cover uniform costs. In Northern Ireland, a grant of £35.75 for primary pupils, £73 for secondary school children under-15s and £78 for children over the age of 15 is required by law.
Who is Eligible For Financial Help With School Uniforms?
The school uniform grant is only accessible to low income households, which include those who also qualify for free school meals, the qualifying criteria does vary from council to council. Although the rules differ, to provide a general idea of who may be eligible, you should qualify for the school uniform grant in England if you receive one or more of the following:
- Income support
- Jobseeker’s allowance (income based)
- Child tax credit – provided you are not entitled to working tax credit
- Employment support allowance (ESA)
- State pension – this benefit must be your sole source of income
- Support under Part IV of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Universal Credit
You may also be able to apply if your annual household income is less than £16,190.
How Do I Find Out if My Council Offers This Grant?
To find out if your local authority offers the school uniform grant visit the UK Government website and then enter your postcode before following a link to your local council website.
Once on your local councils website, click on the education tab or search for “uniform grant”. There should be a section that will tell you whether help is available, what the qualifying criteria is and how much you may be entitled to.
What Can I Do if My Council Doesn’t Offer The Uniform Grant?
While the new law will help cut some of the costs relating to school uniforms, there are many other ways to reduce the expenses of buying school uniforms. Here are a few tips on how to save money when buying school uniforms:
- Buy cheap supermarket school uniforms. These include those plain coloured clothes with no unique school badges. It can often be cheaper to buy a generic shirt and then iron on a badge yourself.
- Look out for clothing sales. It is often possible to get 25% off school uniforms when M&S and Tu (Sainsbury’s) have their clothing discount sales.
- Visit your school’s second-hand school uniforms store. It is often worthwhile having a look at your school’s second-hand uniforms store, there can often be some great bargains.
- Check Facebook Groups and Marketplace. There can often be some great deals on Facebook Marketplace, once parents have had a clear out, it can often be worth taking a look.
At Debt Movement, we understand that bad debt can often happen to good people. If you are worried about how you will be able to purchase school uniforms for your children after the summer holidays, Debt Movement is here to offer you debt guidance with a selection of debt management solutions and financial advice. Request a free call back today.