THE crushing cost of uniforms is hitting families hard, with thousands of parents feeling the pinch as the new school year looms.
It is hardly surprising when it costs an average £287 to kit out a primary pupil each year.
And that soars to £422 for secondary school, says The Children’s Society.
These are worrying numbers for those grappling with the cost-of-living crisis.
Like many struggling mums, Kirsty Reed has been left stressed and anxious after trying to balance uniform costs, up 11 per cent, with other household expenses.
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‘I do everything I can to keep costs down’
The 38-year-old, who is a full-time single mum, lives in Hartlepool with her son Heath, eight.
She says: “The constant worry about how you’re going to afford essentials like uniform and PE kit just creates constant mam guilt and you feel like a failure.
“At one point I felt constantly stressed, upset and teary and struggled to sleep, worrying.
“I do everything I can to keep costs down — sometimes I’ve had to skip meals. But as long as Heath is fed and clothed, that’s all that matters.”
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Donna Jones is in the same predicament.
The 37-year-old McDonald’s worker, who lives in Leicester with husband Matthew, 37, a factory worker, and children Joseph, 15, Samuel, 12, Oliver, five, Olivia, four, and Sophie, three, feels plagued with money worries as the new term approaches.
She says: “We work hard and have never claimed benefits, and this is the first year we’ve found buying school uniforms a real struggle. The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on us as a family has been awful.
“We have to visit the local food bank once a week because the food shop is just too expensive. We’ve cancelled the gas direct debit and pay off what we can afford each month instead.
“With the school uniform on top, it’s ridiculous. I’ve had sleepless nights, worrying. If I total up everything I have to buy for school, it’s around £600 — and that doesn’t include items like blazers with the compulsory school logo on either.”
Statutory guidance introduced in September 2022 ordered schools to keep branded uniform items “to a minimum”.
Schools were also encouraged to make second-hand garments available and to allow high street clothing to be worn.
However, it seems the guidance has not gone far enough.
Our poll found that shoes are the top item mums struggle to afford, followed by coats and jumpers.
It also revealed 16 per cent have had to send their children to school with ill-fitting clothes, while one in seven kids wear damaged items, such as shoes with holes in them.
Our poll of 2,000 mothers found that 21 per cent have taken out a loan or credit card in order to buy school uniforms, while 15 per cent say their child’s school is “not at all supportive”.
What are baby banks?
– Baby banks provide essential items for babies and young children whose parents are living in poverty – including nappies, wipes, clothing, bedding, Moses baskets, cots, blankets, toys and books.
– There are over 200 baby banks in the UK, and they run out of shops, community centres, warehouse units and even people’s living rooms and garages.
– Last year 4.2 million children in the UK were living in poverty and 800,000 children lived in a household that used a food or baby bank.
And 34 per cent say worrying about the cost of school essentials has affected their sleep.
Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save The Children UK, which supports our campaign, says: “School uniform is not a luxury.
“It is unacceptable that uniforms, winter coats and shoes have become unaffordable for many parents.
“The impact on children can be devastating.
“They are often sent home for wearing the wrong uniform or feel embarrassed when they can’t join PE lessons if they don’t have the right clothing.”
Donna says her family’s outgoings have “practically doubled” in recent years and she now relies on friends to help ease the uniform cost burden.
She says: “My partner works 12-hour days, six days a week and I work four night shifts around his shifts too, just to be able to afford the essentials.
“Because we don’t claim benefits, we don’t qualify for the two sets of gifted uniform offered by the school. Thankfully, I’ve been given some bits from friends whose children are moving up from primary to secondary school. Charity shops and Facebook pages have also been helpful.”
Our research shows that, like Donna, a third of mums scour charity shops for cheaper uniforms, while 41 per cent are worried about the cost of buying a coat for their child this winter.
In January this year, Kirsty visited her local free school uniform service — Hartlepool ReLoved Clothing — for the first time.
She now volunteers there twice a week.
She says: “I used to trail around the charity shops trying to find items of uniform that would fit, or scour the sales. Then I saw ReLoved Clothing advertised on Facebook.
“Initially I felt too ashamed and nervous, so I put off going for a month or so.
“But I shouldn’t have worried. There was such a welcoming atmosphere and I realised how many other parents are also struggling.”
Many baby banks across the country also help provide families with school uniforms.
Charity Stripey Stork in Reigate, Surrey, has already responded to school uniform requests for 2,479 children and expects another 1,000 bundles before the end of September.
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Chief executive Nicola Dawes says: “We focus on providing new and preloved school uniforms, shoes and bags filled with all the stationery and essentials needed for the new school year ahead.”
High street chain New Look has donated school uniforms to baby banks through our campaign.
A spokesman for the store says: “New Look is proud to support Fabulous’s Baby, Bank On Us campaign with a donation of school uniforms. We hope this contribution helps a family in need.”
Meanwhile, Kristina Murphy decided to help mums by launching Rubery Swop Shop, a community project providing free school uniforms.
Kristina, a patient safety specialist who lives in Rubery, Birmingham, with her children, Teddy, 16, and Connie, 15, says: “The demand is completely nuts and every year it’s growing.
“We’ve constantly got boxes of tissues out, because you always see people upset.
‘Government needs to give adequate support’
“But they’re often tears of relief, as it’s one less thing to feel anxious and stressed about.
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“In the beginning we’d help kit out around ten children a week, but last year we helped 3,200 children — more than 60 a week. This year I expect it to be much higher.”
Becca, from Save The Children, adds: “Baby banks and charities like ours are playing our part, but the UK Government needs to provide consistent adequate support to families to ensure kids get the essentials they need.”
BABY BANK LOCATIONS
BELOW is a selection of baby banks by region. See the web address at the end of the page to find contact details for all the country’s baby banks
- North West
Baby Basics Bolton & Bury, West Lancashire
Baby Basics Carlisle, Cumbria
Baby Basics South Lakes, Cumbria
Baby Basics, Cleator Moor, West Cumbria
Trafford Little Bundles, Lancashire
TippyToes BabyBank Preston, Lancashire
Salford Baby Bank, Lancashire
Snowdrop Doula CIC Burnley, Lancashire
Cascade Baby Bundles, Audenshaw, Cheshire
The Baby Room at Spinners, Leigh, Lancashire
The Healthy Gems Baby Bank, Oldham, Lancashire
NCT Mid Cheshire
NCT Preston Baby Bundles, Lancashire
KidsBank Chester, Cheshire
Motherwell Pass It On Baby Bank, Winsford, Cheshire
Hyndburn Baby Bank, Accrington, Lancashire
- North East
Growbaby Newcastle, Tyne & Wear
Love, Amelia, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear
Birth Bath and Beyond, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Clothe and Feed South Shields, Tyne & Wear
Clothe and Feed Sunderland, Tyne & Wear
Rosie’s Corner, Hexham, Northumberland
Stockton Baby Bank, County Durham
Darlington Baby Bank, County Durham
Baby Basics Darlington
Growbaby Hull, Yorkshire
Little Acorns Baby Bank Durham, County Durham
Hartlepool Baby Bank, County Durham
Growbaby Teeside, Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees
Baby Basics Leeds, West Yorkshire
Baby Basics Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Leeds Baby Bank, West Yorkshire
Baby Basics Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Birth Bath and Beyond Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Bradford Baby Bank, West Yorkshire
POPI Baby Bank Keighley, West Yorkshire
Rainbow Baby Bank Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire
Stepping Stones Baby Bank Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Calderdale Lighthouse, West Yorkshire
Tiny Hands Baby Bank Pontefract, West Yorkshire
Growbaby York, North Yorkshire
- South West
Ashley’s Birthday Bank, Christchurch, Dorset
Baby Bank Network Bristol
Baby Basics Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Baby Basics Cornwall
Baby Basics Plymouth
Brighter Bristol Storehouse, Bristol
Baby Basics South, Ilminster, Somerset
Growbaby Tiverton, Devon
Children’s Storehouse Plymouth, Devon
Uplift Tiverton, Devon
Exeter Baby Bank Network, Devon
Little Lighthouse Baby Bank Wythenshawe, Manchester
Baby Bundles Wiltshire
The Nest Project, Bath, Somerset
Gloucestershire Bundles, Gloucester
Open Door Exmouth, Devon
Forest of Dean Baby Bank, Gloucestershire
Small Stuff Baby Bank, Radstock, Somerset
Stroud District Kid’s Stuff, Gloucestershire
Teignmouth Baby Bank, Devon
Ten Little Toes Baby Bank, Cowfold, West Sussex
Growbaby Swindon, Wiltshire
- South East
Baby Bank & Beyond (South Wealden) CIC (Hellingly), East Sussex
Baby Bank Herts, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
Sebby’s Corner Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Stevenage Babyshed, Hertfordshire
Baby Basics Billericay, Essex
Growbaby Whitstable, Kent
Growbaby Aylesbury, Bucks
Baby Basics Bromley, Kent
Best Start Baby Bank, Eastbourne, Sussex
Basildon Borough Baby Bank, Essex
Growbaby Maidstone, Kent
Growbaby Rayleigh, Essex
Baby Basics Chelmsford, Essex
Growbaby St Albans, Herts
Growbaby Hemel Hempstead, Herts
Precious Bundles Colchester, Essex
Fighting Chance Baby Bank, Petworth, West Sussex
Baby2Baby, East Sussex
Baby Basics Brighton
Baby Basics Dover & Deal, Kent
Baby Basics Englefield Green, Surrey
Baby Basics Folkestone, Kent
Baby Basics Willvern, Essex
First Days Reading, Berkshire
Baby Basics Hastings and Rother, East Sussex
Baby Basics, Grays, Kent
Baby Basics Shoreham, West Sussex
NCT Winchester Baby Bundles, Hampshire
NCT Woking Baby Bundles, Surrey
Pelican Parcels Brighton and Hove, Sussex
Baby Stuff Braintree, Essex
Tots 2 Teens Colchester baby bank, Essex
Stripey Stork, Reigate, Surrey
Sunshine Baby Bank Southend, Essex
The Baby Bank HQ Havering, Essex
The Baby Bank HQ Thurrock, Essex
Community Wardrobe Chelmsford, Essex
The Baby Bank Windsor, Berkshire
Growbaby Storehouse Ashford, Kent
Moses Basket Brentwood, Essex,
Growbaby Chelmsford, Essex
NCT Little Bundles Baby Bank Chichester & Arun, West Sussex
NCT Baby Bundles Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent
Mama to Mama, Margate, Kent
Home-Start West Berkshire Baby Bank, Newbury, Berkshire
Growbaby, Wokingham, Berkshire
The Baby Bank HQ Barking, Dagenham and Redbridge, Essex
Baby Basics Portsmouth, Hampshire
Baby Basics Guildford
Baby Branch Southampton, Hampshire
Baby Necessities Southampton, Hampshire
Portsmouth Baby Bank, Hampshire
- Channel Islands
Baby Basics Jersey
214 SPACE Baby Bank Hub Brent
214 SPACE Baby Bank Hub Hammersmith & Fulham
214 SPACE Baby Bank Hub Kensington & Chelsea
Growbaby Lighthouse, Sutton, Greater London
Bromley Brighter Beginnings
Baby Basics, Barnet
Cariad Baby Bank, Harrow
Growbaby Kingston upon Thames
Choices Boutique Islington
Cornerstone Baby Bank Leyton
Baby Basics Sunbury
Ealing Salvation Army Baby Bank
The Small Project South London
Tiny Toes, Tiny Feet, Northwood
Camberwell Baby Bank
Orchard Baby Bank, Woodford
Peabody Toddlers Clothes Bank, Ilford
Pram Depot Wood Green
Little Village (London-wide)
Mammakind Baby Bank, Greenwich
NCT Redbridge Baby Bundles
Hackney Children & Baby Bank
Ilford Salvation Army Baby Bank
Lloyd Park Children’s Charity Baby Bank Walthamstow
The Extra Mile, Hampton, Richmond Upon Thames.
Brierley Hill Baby Bank, Dudley, West Mids
Baskets of Joy Leicester
Alice Charity, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire
The Arches, Nottingham
High Peak Baby Bank, Buxton, Derbyshire
Growbaby, Nuneaton, Warwickshire
Growbaby Bedworth, Warwickshire
Bicester Baby Bank, Oxfordshire
Elayos Baby Bank Birmingham
Baby Basics Wolverhampton
Growbaby Birmingham St Michaels Church
Baby Aid Birmingham
Baby Basics Warwick
Baby Godiva Coventry
Baby Basics Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Baby Basics Long Eaton, Notts
Baby Basics Leicester
Baby Basics Northampton
Baby Basics Hinckley, Leicestershire
Growbaby Birmingham Vineyard City Centre Site
Tots in Need Walsall, West Mids
Spark Baby & Children’s Bank Staffordshire
Staffordshire Baby Bank, Stafford, Staffs
Telford and Wrekin Baby and Toddler bank, Shropshire
Clothe and Feed Wallsend, Herefordshire
Little Stars Shropshire
Karis Baby Bank Central Birmingham
NCT Malvern Hills Baby Bundles, Worcs
Little Cherub’s Baby Bank High Peak, Derbyshire
Baby Basics Dryffryn Clwyd Denbigh
Baby Basics Vale of Glamorgan
Baby Basics Newtown
Baby Basics Swansea
Baby Basics Port Talbot
Baby Basics Wrexham
Cwtch Baby Bank Cardiff
Baby Basics Penrhiwceiber
Cariad a Cwtch Baby Bank Llandrindod Wells
Pembrokeshire Baby Bank
Splice Baby Bank Bridgend
Bundles Baby Clothing and Birth Support, Newport
Bethel Baby Bank Port Talbot
NCT Cardiff Baby Bundles
Ely Baby Bank
Feed Newport Baby Bank
Bairn Necessities, Glasgow
Baby Bank Scotland, Hamilton
Bear Necessities Airdrie
Togs for Tots Dundee
Glasgow Baby Food Bank
GRA Baby Bank Aberdeenshire
Nelly Boxes East Renfrewshire Baby Bank
No 1 Glasgow Baby & Family Support Service
Tiny Treasures Baby Bank Oban
Button and Bows Baby Bank Perth
Cumbernauld & Kilsyth Care
Misty Glen Baby Bank Fort William
Dingwall Primary Baby Bank
Moray Baby Bank
Monklands Baby and Family Clothing Aid
Abi’s Footprints, Sudbury, Suffolk
Baby Bank Norfolk
Baby Basics Lowestoft, Suffolk
Baby Basics West Norfolk
West Marsh Baby Bank, Lincolnshire
Suffolk Baby Bank, Bury Saint Edmunds
Baby’s Basket, Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Growbaby Thetford, Norfolk
Growkids Norwich, Norfolk
Fenland Family and Baby Bank, Cambridgeshire
GrowKids Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Little Family Baby Bank, Sutton On Sea, Lincolnshire
Little Treasures Baby Bank, Horncastle, East Lincolnshire
Little Bundles, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
- Northern Ireland
Baby Basics Antrim & Newtonabbey
Baby Basics Ballymena
Baby Basics Belfast
Bump2Baby NI (Mid-Ulster Baby Bank)
Baby Basics Banbridge
Baby Basics Causeway
Baby Basics Magherafelt
Baby Basics Mullavilly
Carrickfergus Baby Bank