With school resuming for 2019, the topic on a lot of parents’ minds seems to be the cost of school uniforms. Debate has been raging across social media.
Growing kids = growing costs
Unless you can get your hands on some good quality secondhand uniform or hand-me-downs are an option, chances are you’re going to have to fork out quite a lot for that first year of school. However, kids have a habit of growing (especially at intermediate/college age!) and lo and behold, the uniform that you bought last year and could easily see out a few more years is suddenly tighter than an All Black scrum.
That’s not to say that parents aren’t aware that this growing occurs. But it’s not like you can buy everything two sizes bigger and just hope that it will see them through to the end of their schooling. Though, the amount of new college kids who are wearing blazers that look like tents seems to be the exception to the rule. Those things are pricey so, “you’ll grow into it” is totally valid here!
Then there’s the “additional” uniform bits and pieces. When I was at college (in those black and white days, right kids?), we had a summer and winter shirts, summer and winter skirts, jumper, sandals and shoes. That was it. Now my kids’ school uniform list seems to be the size of an Ezibuy catalogue! Add in PE shorts, PE top, house top, tie, cap, scarf, socks, blazer, raincoat … aggh!
Why are school uniforms so expensive?
Despite claims from parents of collusion between schools and retailers trying to fleece parents for everything they have, it most likely comes down to quality, demand and personalisation. School uniforms tend to be better quality than your bulk standard $10 tshirt from your local bulk clothing outlet. Also, if the uniform is only required by say, a couple of hundred kids each year, then that’s a very small product run for manufacturers with increased costs due to economies of scale.
However, I’m not letting schools off that easy! Or more precisely, the Board of Trustees. There is no need to change the uniform every other year and therefore make secondhand and hand-me-downs out of date. Yes, fashions change and materials require updating but keeping to maybe just one change during five years of college is surely more than enough. There is also no need to put ridiculous demands on parents that kids must only wear a certain shoe which can only be bought from the priciest shop in town. My kids’ school uniform is probably mid-price (ie, $35 for a polo top). But some items don’t have to be bought from the school. The kids are allowed to wear “black dress pants” and “black leather shoes”, therefore allowing parents to find a) a style that the kids are actually comfortable in and b) a product that can be sourced for a reasonable price but still keeping the same overall look. There is also no insistence on shirts having the school crest, so a plain white shirt it is. Team it with a school tie and blazer and it looks just as good.
Why do we need uniforms?
There are some advantages to having a school uniform. Everyone is wearing the same so there’s no opportunity to tease kids about their “stink” clothes (do kids even say ‘stink’ any more?). You don’t need to think about what’s appropriate to wear and it gives kids a sense of belonging – being part of something they can take pride in.
What can be done about the cost?
Ditching uniforms is the obvious answer. But it’s one that parents don’t tend to be keen on. The kids still have to wear something to school so there’s still an expense and it stops the kids from asking for all the latest gear that will likely wear out way before a uniform would anyway.
One suggestion, from broadcaster Gary McCormick, was to have a standardised uniform for kids with schools free to pick their own colours and add their logos, if they wish. I think some schools would shy away from this as it does take away from the individuality of a school’s uniform. However, it does help to solve the cost of small product runs and it could be done for the more standard items of school uniform, like polo tops.
And if you want to make real change, run for the school’s Board of Trustees and get in on the discussions!
Make a plan to save
Usually you know which school your child is going to be attending, you can find out the approximate cost of uniform, and therefore you can plan ahead to put away a small amount each month, so that the cost isn’t a shock to the bank account when your child starts school and also needs stationery, sports equipment, school fees, course fees, and devices in one very expensive month. But, even if you are in a position to save up (which a lot of us aren’t), that doesn’t mean that we WANT to fork out hundreds of dollars on clothes.
Do you find the cost of school uniform to be over the top?
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Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”