Starting school is a big deal for children and school uniform is expensive. Even if you buy from supermarkets, all of the bits you need soon add up. It makes sense not to buy more than you need but, how much do you need? While there is no exact answer, you can work out how much you need based on you, your child and your school. Here’s how to decide how much school uniform to buy.
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Your Washing Schedule
One of the main considerations when deciding how much school uniform to buy is your washing schedule. Personally, I absolutely refuse to wash uniform more than once a week and that means my initial investment in uniform is quite high. On the plus side it means I spend less on washing and it gets less wear over the year so I can make a bit back by selling it on.
If you’re happy to wash the uniform more often or don’t have the funds to buy a lot of uniform then you can get away with buying less.
Do you Plan to Make Them Change Straight After School?
School uniform that is warn until bedtime is likely to end up dirtier than school uniform that is removed straight after school, particularly if they eat dinner in it. If you’re keen to buy less uniform and not wash it more than once a week then you might want to consider a policy of changing straight after school. They don’t have to have a clean outfit after school everyday, as they’ll only wear it for a few hours. You might want to allocate an outfit each week for after school wear.
Consider Current Fashions
While the aim of school uniform is partly to avoid fashion having an impact on kid’s clothes at school, it still will. This won’t be such an issue for children starting reception or in the early years of primary school but for those in key stage two and going up to secondary school it will be a big issue.
For example, optional items like jumpers might become not be worn at all one year and worn all the time another year. Items where there is a choice, for example, longs socks or tights for girls, will likely be divisive, they will want to wear one, and refuse to wear the other.
What Season are You Shopping in?
If you are buying in the autumn, it’s probably best not to worry about buying a winter coat yet. Children have a horrible habit of growing suddenly so only buy what you will need immediately and leave other items for later on. This strategy lets you spread the cost too.
You won’t need the same number of every items so below we’ll consider how much you need of each item.
How Many School Shirts do you Need?
How many shirts/polo shirts you need will depend very much on how messy your child is! If they tend to spill food they may well need a clean shirt everyday. This will be even more likely if they are having school dinners as hot food is likely to create more spills than a packed lunch.
For girls you’ll want to think about what they’ll be wearing with their shirts. If you plan to use pinafore dresses then it’s likely their shirt will be covered most of the time and less likely to get dirty.
Depending on the age of your child, you may also need to consider whether they to sweat a lot. For most children this won’t be an issue until late primary/early secondary school but it does start much earlier for some children. If that’s the case for your child they’ll need a clean shirt everyday.
If you only want to wash once a week and you think your child will need a clean one everyday then you’ll need 5 shirts/polo shirts and to wash and dry them over the weekend. If you think your child will get away with wearing a shirt for a couple of days or you’re happy to wash twice a week then you could manage with 3.
Bottoms tend to get less messy than tops so you’re more likely to get a few days wear out of them. The exception to this is if you have a child whose bladder isn’t 100% reliable yet. A fair percentage of kids still wait to long to go when they start reception which often results in a bit of wee leaking out which can be enough to make clothes smell.
Most children will manage with 2 or 3 pairs of trousers/shorts/skirts, even if you only want to wash once a week but if you are worried about bladder control and they are wearing trousers or shorts then you may want to provide a clean pair everyday so either buy 5 or wash twice a week.
Girls pinafore dresses can get quite grubby if they are spilt on a lot but the marks are likely to be less obvious than on white shirts. Most children will get away with 2 or 3 pinafore dresses even if you only want to wash once a week.
Most schools have some kind of gingham summer dress option. These will both show stains and smell if they are sweated on so you may well want a good number. Annoying as they only get warn for a few months of the year. A fairy clean child will probably manage with 3 but a messy or sweaty child will probably need 4 or 5.
Jumpers and cardigans are the bane of most parent’s lives. They are often an item where the school requires a specific one that has the logo on to be bought so they cost more, they are close enough to the mouth that they often get food on and worst of all, the kids can take them off which means they regularly go missing.
As they aren’t touching the skin, as long as they don’t get spilt on or dropped in a muddy puddle they shouldn’t need washing too often so if you have a child who doesn’t spill much or lose things you might get away with just two. If not, you’ll probably want at least 3, 5 would be safer. If your school has a secondhand selling page on Facebook or similar it can be a great way to pick up some extras if you think your child is going to lose a lot of them.
If your school has a tie you can probably get a way with just one. It is however a high risk strategy, if you lose it or leave it somewhere (quite possible with play dates or after school activities) you’ll have to send them in without one.In the primary years, schools may be fairly relaxed about that and just lend them one but it’s likely to be a bigger problem at secondary school.
Traditionally, PE kit only comes home during the school holidays for washing. This means you only really need one of everything. The trouble with this is that most supermarkets sell PE T-Shirts and shorts in packs of two. You might want to team up with a friend and split a pack between you.
During the pandemic, a lot of schools asked children to come into school in their PE kit on the days they have PE. My school have decided to continue this long term because of the time they are saving on getting everyone changed.
The upside of this is that they need less uniform, the downside is they need may need more PE kit. While a PE kit that is worn for an hour a day twice a week can get away with being washed once a half term, a PE kit that is worn all day twice a week can’t. If they have PE two days in a row, you’ll struggle to wash and dry it in time so will likely need two tops which are an item many schools like you to have the logo on.
Other Items You’ll Need
Here are a few other items your child will need to buy for school and some things to consider when buying them/
- Water Bottle – These are worth investing in because there is nothing worse than a leaky water bottle in a school bag. We’ve found almost all types seem to leak apart from a basic screw top design
- A lunch Box – If your child is having a packed lunch you’ll probably want a hard plastic container to put it in. My kids love these ones* to keep everything separate
- A lunch bag – A bag that will keep their lunch cool in the summer months is important as schools get hot and their lunch will be pretty gross by the time they eat it without one. Most of the children’s lunch bags on sale don’t seem to have very long life spans but the their tastes change so quickly they are usually begging for a new one every year anyway. Our Smiggle one has lasted the longest
- School Bag – Unless your school insists on it, I’d advice against going down the book bag route. The main item young children take to School is a water bottle and it really doesn’t fit well in a book bag. A small rucksack works better.
- Labels – You’ll need to label every single thing your child takes to school (we only drew the line at pants and socks). We’ve used stamptastic in the past which never washes out and is fun to use, but the ink pad eventually dried out and it doesn’t work well with hard plastic items like bottles. We’re now using Stikins and so far they haven’t come off anything. Many schools have teamed up with a label company and have a code you can use so that the schools gets some money from the order.
- Hats – A winter hat and a summer hat are useful to have, most state primary schools will let you have any design you want so its likely your child will want something with their favourite character on it, just make sure you label it as they are so easily lost.
- Shoes – Whether you go for expensive shoes because they last or cheap shoes because they grow out of them so quickly, don’t buy them too far in advance because you know that will cause a growth spurt.
Talk to Other Parents at the School
If you are new to the school, see if there is a Facebook group for parents. These can be a useful way of finding out about uniform fashions at the school, unwritten uniform rules, how strictly uniform rules are enforced and other tips that relate specifically to that school.
Things to Consider when Deciding How Much School Uniform to Buy
- How often are you willing to wash it? The less you are willing to wash the more you’ll need
- How messy is your child? And are they going to be eating messy school dinners or relatively clean packed lunches?
- Does your child Sweat a lot? Plenty of children these days are starting to struggle with body odour in key stage one, if that’s your child you’ll need more uniform
- Does your child have 100% bladder control? If they have that habit of holding it too long and letting some leak out they may need clean trousers/shorts everyday
- Does your child lose things easily? If your child isn’t very good at taking care of their things then you may need to buy more uniform to allow time for the lost items to make their way back to you.
- How strict is the school? If the school enforces the uniform rules very strictly then you’ll need to make absolutely sure you have enough of everything. If they aren’t going to be too worried if you have to send your child in in a plain white T-Shirt instead of a polo shirt occasionally (often the case in infants school) you can get away with buying less. Parents with children already at the school can let you know how strict they are
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