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  • FIRST POST
    • MSE Archna
    • By MSE Archna 30th Aug 11, 9:04 PM
    • 1,874Posts
    • 6,140Thanks
    MSE Archna
    Can you buy cheap school uniforms? Poll Discussion
    • #1
    • 30th Aug 11, 9:04 PM
    Can you buy cheap school uniforms? Poll Discussion 30th Aug 11 at 9:04 PM
    Are you allowed to buy cheap school uniforms?

    Poll started 23 August 2011, click here to vote

    Does your child's school let you buy from supermarkets or are you restricted to a specific shop?

    Which of these is closest to your situation (you can vote in each category if you've children at different schools)?


    My child goes to a state primary school (or any free school)

    Whole uniform can be generic/supermarket
    Uniform can be generic/supermarket but with iron on badges
    It can be mostly generic but a few items must be from set suppliers
    Everything but shirts/trousers must be branded from a specific supplier
    Everything must be branded from a specific supplier
    There's no school uniform

    My child goes to a state senior school

    Whole uniform can be generic/supermarket
    Uniform can be generic/supermarket but with iron on badges
    It can be mostly generic but a few items must be from set suppliers
    Everything but shirts/trousers must be branded from a specific supplier
    Everything must be branded from a specific supplier
    There's no school uniform

    My child goes to a private primary school (or any fee-paying school)

    Whole uniform can be generic/supermarket
    Uniform can be generic/supermarket but with iron on badges
    It can be mostly generic but a few items must be from set suppliers
    Everything but shirts/trousers must be branded from a specific supplier
    Everything must be branded from a specific supplier
    There's no school uniform

    My child goes to a private senior school

    Whole uniform can be generic/supermarket
    Uniform can be generic/supermarket but with iron on badges
    It can be mostly generic but a few items must be from set suppliers
    Everything but shirts/trousers must be branded from a specific supplier
    Everything must be branded from a specific supplier
    There's no school uniform

    Click reply to discuss
    Last edited by MSE Archna; 30-08-2011 at 9:28 PM.
    Report inappropriate posts: forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com




Page 1
    • Ron McDon
    • By Ron McDon 31st Aug 11, 7:17 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 14 Thanks
    Ron McDon
    • #2
    • 31st Aug 11, 7:17 PM
    • #2
    • 31st Aug 11, 7:17 PM
    This makes me so cross! My son is going to secondary school this year, and a lot of my friends are single Mums or on low incomes. The majority of the local schools (in Bath, Somerset) seem to have one supplier for school wear and the children have to have: Sweatshirt or blazer, polo shirt, rugby top (boys only), p.e. top, p.e. shorts, p.e. socks - all with the school logo on which can only be bought from this one supplier. To give you an idea of the prices, I used to buy my boy's white polo shirts from Tesco/Asda etc and get 3 tops for under 5 - the branded polo shirts from this supplier cost 8.50 each! I would love to be able to buy clothes from a cheaper supplier and iron-on the badges but none of the local schools do this anymore, they all have embroidered logos on their uniforms, and you have to comply or your child gets in trouble for not wearing the correct uniform. They have second-hand uniform sales but to be honest by the time the kids are at secondary school they don't take care of their clothes any more and the stuff they had for sale when we went last time was awful - I think it stigmatises children to have old faded clothes, they get picked on for wearing second-hand stuff. I think the schools are completely irresponsible and should have a sweatshirt/blazer as a compulsory item but allow parents to buy the rest of the uniform from wherever they want. I would be interested to know if the schools receive a percentage of the profits from the supplier, that would explain a lot!
    • popadom
    • By popadom 31st Aug 11, 7:26 PM
    • 779 Posts
    • 187 Thanks
    popadom
    • #3
    • 31st Aug 11, 7:26 PM
    • #3
    • 31st Aug 11, 7:26 PM
    Hi
    I used to have the same issue as a kid. Had to have blazers. My dad used to buy one from m/s (20) and buy a sew on badge. By the second year in secondary school, they didnt care. What you could do, if the second hand blazers are cheap enough, is cut the embriodry bit off and sew on a new cheaper blazer.

    I agree, this isnt a fair practice. I do wonder sometimes if they do get profits.
  • smileyhappy
    • #4
    • 31st Aug 11, 9:36 PM
    • #4
    • 31st Aug 11, 9:36 PM
    I took on this challenge before my dtr started High School 3 years ago. I was disgusted at the prices and things only available from school shop. I had a meeting with Chair of Governors who was very anti and told me that I was the only person ever to complain. I had found an alternative cheaper supplier.

    After a month he got back to me and said he was going to reduce the prices in the shop (and yes the large profits were going to "school equipment"). This meant on some items as much as 5 decrease(plenty of profit). I kept on at them and over the next year we got a different supplier. Then last year with a new school building we abolished the school shop. Over the three years I have also got them to stop having a winter and a summer uniform. Polo shirts can now be worn all year where previously they only wore them for 8 weeks.

    I was interviewed by a couple of national sunday papers at the time.

    All I can say is keep badgering the schools. It can be changed. Must admit if I had a for every hours sleep I lost though I wouldnt need to be on here!!

    The problem comes from the guidance which says schools SHOULD ensure that the items are available from more than one supplier. If it said MUST, then all this would be easily sorted.

    We have had some new academies open here. They have some stupid uniforms but all kids have been given some items. They apparently do not come under the same guidance.

    Nothing will ever change if parents dont challenge it. We used to get a massive list of equipment the kids "needed" until I spoke to the head and gave him a list of things that my daughter had never used! Then he changed it.

    No one has the cash to waste anymore. I hope MSE might take this up as a new campaign??
  • julierwilson
    • #5
    • 1st Sep 11, 12:18 PM
    • #5
    • 1st Sep 11, 12:18 PM
    I don't understand why more schools don't allow parents to buy iron on badges so we can buy all uniform from the supermarkets for a fraction of the cost of specialist suppliers. They still look really good - Springmead Priamry School got Our School Badge to make thier iron on badges for just 1 each...
  • TechnoBadger
    • #6
    • 1st Sep 11, 2:15 PM
    • #6
    • 1st Sep 11, 2:15 PM
    School uniform can be expensive for a number of reasons.

    Firstly a school uniform shop has a full year's rent, a full year's rates, a full year's staff wages, a full year's manager's wages, a full year's bills to pay and still needs to make a profit! After all this expense most parents only darken their doorsteps for a few days just before the start of the new school year. I think it's a ridiculous business model, but by selling with a very high mark up they might just survive the current financial situation.

    Secondly many schools see the sale of their uniform as something they must profit from. And many do very well out of a shop's commission / donations etc. even though this money has probably added significantly to what their parents have to pay. Ultimately it has come out of the parents' pockets. And let's not forget that at primary level uniform cannot be compulsory - yes it's good for the children, I'm sure, but from a school's point of view a smart looking school is easier to sell to prospective new parents. If nicely clothed children are a walking advert for a school why should parents pay more than they need in order to achieve this?

    Thirdly money or goods given to a school by a supplier may well be part of an 'exclusive basis arrangement'. There will be no competition for a sole supplier who can now charge pretty much what he likes. After all, why sell a badged blazer for 30 when parents have to buy from him? He might as well charge 50. I think this is tantamount to bribery causing a monopoly situation. There are laws about both monopolies and bribery... Some schools act themselves as expensive sole suppliers selling their own uniform at high prices. I can see why schools would need to have a small mark-up, but profiting from the parents in this way cannot really be on.

    So what can parents do if they're faced with expensive uniform? As the school may be doing 'very nicely, thank you' out of the current arrangement you may need to apply a little pressure!

    1). A second supplier, one who's not working in cahoots with the first one, could be sought. You may or may not be able to find one willing to take on a share of the supply when he knows there's an existing supplier who would now reduce prices (he probably won't be paying a kickback any more) and compete vigorously.

    2). Agree with the school that any old red / whatever sweatshirt can be worn and supply an iron on badge for parents to attach. But the school will look a bit naff to be honest. And the quality of some supermarket sweatshirts may or may not be up to much. Anyone seen ASDA's 100 day uniform guarantee? That's 1 term! Decent uniform could last a couple of years.

    3). My preferred option would be for the school / PTA or a group of parents to take on the supply - hopefully on a not-for-profit basis. There are suppliers out there who will help, even some of the same ones who supply school uniform shops! I've been there and done this - it's quite rewarding to see your child's school all wearing smart, non fading, uniform and remembering what a motley bunch they once were. Even simply organising an annual / twice annual / termly batch of embroidered sweatshirts / whatever to sell cheaply to parents would be a start.

    At the end of the day, you'll need to apply a bit of parent power I'm sure, but it'll be worth it. The school uniform shop's mark-up is likely to be around 100% or more, so plenty of scope to get prices down. The Chairman of Governors could be the best one to talk to because they're in charge of the school's uniform policy.

    If you need a final bit or persuasion, parents who are told to buy from one shop may spend - let's say - 20 per year and per child extra on uniform. Not much, maybe, but multiply this by the number of children in the school and we're probably talking of saving the parent group as a whole far in excess of 10,000 each and every year, depending of course on the size of the school.

    I second the call for a campaign. I think some of the current practices stink.
    Last edited by TechnoBadger; 01-09-2011 at 4:54 PM.
  • Jumty
    • #7
    • 1st Sep 11, 4:51 PM
    • #7
    • 1st Sep 11, 4:51 PM
    Technobadger you make some excellent points. Can I make some?

    1) It is obvious that having a high street shop, open all year round, is commercially daft. Why should parents subsidise stupid shop owners?

    2) There's a difference between your mark-up and your profit. The specialist suppliers are barely making a profit at the moment. Two biggish on line suppliers (Schoolwear For Less and Your School Uniform) closed and reopened under new ownership only recently. The retailers with a high street presence are in an even more precarious situation. How do the schools turn big profits if the suppliers themselves aren't?

    3) What's the point of having a sweatshirt that lasts two years if children outgrow them in a few months? A lot of uniform suppliers use the cheapest garments they can get their hands on to bolster their margins.
  • TechnoBadger
    • #8
    • 1st Sep 11, 5:41 PM
    • #8
    • 1st Sep 11, 5:41 PM
    Hi Jumty,

    You write: 1) It is obvious that having a high street shop, open all year round, is commercially daft. Why should parents subsidise stupid shop owners?

    Exactly my point. Schools have the infrastructure to sell things to parents themselves, and some do. It's likely that many won't have the time to put into this but surely a PTA could help? Yes, they'd need to help the parents for once instead of the school but otherwise why not? If a school wants to sell tea towels, mugs whatever they don't do deals with local shops. Sales are run through the school fund or the PTA's accounts. Batches of school sweatshirts should be sold in the same way - it needn't be some kind of black art.

    2) There's a difference between your mark-up and your profit.

    There's something wrong if a shop can't turn a profit with a 100% mark-up. There's clearly the opportunity for parents / a school / a PTA to organise (probably better) uniform at nearly half the current price.

    The specialist suppliers are barely making a profit at the moment. Two biggish on line suppliers (Schoolwear For Less and Your School Uniform) closed and reopened under new ownership only recently. The retailers with a high street presence are in an even more precarious situation. How do the schools turn big profits if the suppliers themselves aren't?

    Yes, I had noticed the demise of Schoolwear for Less. Trutex and Banner are two bigger names that have been bought out in the last couple of years, too. Schools get various amounts from their 'sole supplier' - maybe 10% of sales, maybe computers / PE equiptment etc. And perhaps the odd raffle prize for the PTA to keep them sweet too. Without the 'sole supply' that they obtain from these gifts they would be out of business, and Schoolwear for Less may well have benefited.

    3) What's the point of having a sweatshirt that lasts two years if children outgrow them in a few months? A lot of uniform suppliers use the cheapest garments they can get their hands on to bolster their margins.

    Primary school uniform is generally sized 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10 etc. There isn't enough variation to pick another size after a few months! Decent quality uniform can be passed down to siblings, sold on by PTAs to those who can't afford brand new uniform etc.

    Good sweatshirts - and I'm thinking of UK made ones here - aren't really too expensive, maybe around 4 trade from the right supplier. There are budget ranges around, like the imported Woodbank, which in my experience are of poorer quality and fade badly. But isn't selling these good for school uniform shops - the sweatshirt looks shoddy after a few months, mum has to go and buy another one, and may pick up a pair of trousers whilst she's there? A sale of one inferior sweatshirt has become a sale of two sweatshirts plus a pair of trousers. But the opposite applies when you're providing uniform on a not-for-profit basis for fellow parents as a PTA might. The last thing you'd want then are mums continually coming back for replacements; so it's best to sell something that's properly made, doesn't fade and lasts. A better experience all round.
    Last edited by TechnoBadger; 02-09-2011 at 2:10 PM.
    • popadom
    • By popadom 2nd Sep 11, 4:42 PM
    • 779 Posts
    • 187 Thanks
    popadom
    • #9
    • 2nd Sep 11, 4:42 PM
    • #9
    • 2nd Sep 11, 4:42 PM
    I dont see why the shops dont just put it all online. It would save alot of money on rent,wages, ect. Which should, in theory, bring the price down. For those who dont have the internet, the school could set aside one room and allow someone to run a "shop" almost in the school, or allow them to come in once a month and give the school x % of sales. Just an idea
  • smileyhappy
    That was how it worked at my daughter's school. The prices were higher than they are now at the independent suppliers! Thats why I challenged it as they didnt have rent or overheads to pay so didnt need to charge such high prices. Never have got to the bottom of where all the profits went to other than "school equipment" which is effectively saying parents have to make a non voluntary contribution.
  • TechnoBadger
    ...the school could set aside one room and allow someone to run a "shop" almost in the school, or allow them to come in once a month and give the school x % of sales.

    But that's where the problem can lie as smileyhappy has pointed out. Schools can get a bit greedy forgetting, hopefully, that they're tapping their parents.

    Never have got to the bottom of where all the profits went to other than "school equipment" which is effectively saying parents have to make a non voluntary contribution.

    And that's totally unfair to the parents. If a supplier's happy to sell at a reasonable price, spends a lot of time and effort sourcing the stuff, carting it to school and selling on the school's behalf why should he have to actually charge parents (much) higher prices in order give funds to the school? No way should money change hands (it came from parents' pockets), and if part of any deal is that there's exclusivity of supply then that's bribery, no? Businesses such as bookclubs should hand over commission - parents aren't forced to buy particular books - but please, schools, stop extracting money from your compulsory uniform supply chain.

    There are guidelines that schools should have more than one uniform supplier but there are occasions when one reliable supplier selling quality clothes at reasonable prices should not be discouraged / undermined. Or a PTA / school / group of parents filling this role themselves. Uniform supply can be a bit of a logistical nightmare and if there are two suppliers, neither knowing how many parents will buy from them in the week before the new school year starts, who is responsible if stocks run out?!
    Last edited by TechnoBadger; 02-09-2011 at 11:29 PM.
    • Sooetie
    • By Sooetie 3rd Sep 11, 6:00 AM
    • 138 Posts
    • 146 Thanks
    Sooetie
    Beware - Purse Dippers
    Please beware of purse dippers while you are buying uniform.

    2 years ago I was in the designated school supplier's shop and I had my purse stolen.

    Yes I should have taken more care and I feel such a twit, but as it transpired it was a gang of foreigners and even the police were suprised they did it in that shop. It appears it was a woman who suprisingly I managed to describe well enough that the police were able to track her on CCTV until they lost the car she got into on the motorway. Months later the police updated me that they were still following the gang but getting somewhere.

    Hind sight - does this person look out of place? It wasn't until I thought back that I realised she didn't seem to have a child with her.
    There were a couple of other mothers in the same small area trying clothes against their children. Move into an area where you have some space.

    Needless to say the shop did not help at all - didn't even ring the police for me.

    It's gutting to have your purse nicked and makes you feel like an idiot for letting it happen so please just take care.

    All the best for the new school year

    Soo x
    • Slowdown
    • By Slowdown 3rd Sep 11, 9:37 PM
    • 464 Posts
    • 6,205 Thanks
    Slowdown
    Schools, by law, are not allowed to make you buy uniform from a specific supplier. They can request you do so but cannot enforce this. They can provide badge for you to put on but if you chose to buy generic uniform for any reason they cannot stop you or in any way penalise you for it.
  • smileyhappy
    Thing is though they can. Guidance says they SHOULD have more than one supplier but doesnt say they MUST. This is how they get away with it.

    As for sew on badges I made that point at school 3 years ago and was told by Chair of Govs that this was "tatty".

    Guidance also says kids cannot be excluded for an infringement of uniform alone, only if its part of a series of infringements. They can only be sent home for the time it takes to get changed. But what if you dont have something for them to change to?

    What schools do is embarrass the kids in front of the others so that your kids come home and are upset so you do the "decent" thing and buy whatever.

    At daughters school they have been a bit less strict in the last year and unfortunately it has meant that the kids have pushed the rules to the limit, so from this term its back to strict again. My point is still though that if a child doesnt have correct stuff then the school shouldnt challenge the child but contact the parent(as per DCSF guidance). They need to give them a reasonable time to sort it. However I also think if a girl has too much make up or dyed hair than school should in that case also challenge the child. Trouble is parents dont back up the school. I know that the Head called a mother about her son's hair and her answer was that it would grow out and wasnt affecting his learning. Head pointed out that it was affecting others at school as they were copying.

    I find it so difficult cos if school are reasonable then people take advantage and if they are over strict people who are suffering financially get to suffer further.
  • NicolaL
    As for sew on badges I made that point at school 3 years ago and was told by Chair of Govs that this was "tatty".

    DC's school has iron-on badges so you don't need to be wizz with the old sewing needle to get a perfect finish. Apparently the special adhesive is the type they use to put logos on football shirts. So if it's good enough for Nike, Adidas and the like it should be OK for a school.
    • Mrs Arcanum
    • By Mrs Arcanum 4th Sep 11, 11:04 AM
    • 20,510 Posts
    • 44,026 Thanks
    Mrs Arcanum
    My children's senior school only insists on branded Sweatshirts & Polo shirts purchased from the school.
    All other kit can be generic but if they are involved in team sports outside school will need the relevant PE shirt or School Band Polo Shirt.

    So none of the choices quite fit.

    Gripe is the 20% VAT is charged on ALL sizes regardless.
    Truth always poses doubts & questions. Only lies are 100% believable, because they don't need to justify reality. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Labyrinth of the Spirits
  • sturose
    I have been having this argument with my kids school for a few years now ever since they appointed a supplier for their uniform.

    The supplier just happened to be the most expensive supplier in the local area and the head teachers excuse was that he wanted all the kids to wear the same clothing.

    I challenged him about this and suggested that it was more to do with financial gain for the school, he immediately became very evasive and offered to pay part towards the increased cost of the uniform.

    I have been campaigning for a few years to stop this practice but I haven't been able to drum up enough support. It appears that like everything else the good old english folk will just put up with whatever they are told instead of fighting back.

    My eldest child has now left school but I still have three boys there, everything but the shirts and shoes are compulsory logo'd items from the expensive supplier they chose. They are adding more and more compulsory items to the list each year which now includes the PE kit. Not taking into account replacement items when they ruin the clothes it is already running into several hundred pounds just to go back to school.

    I was very disappointed with the OFT's investigation into the exclusive supplier arrangement. Nothing was actually done about the situation and schools have just got greedier.

    Instead of using expensive suppliers the schools could buy the blazers etc from generic suppliers and buy embroidery machines. They could then teach the kids embroidery as well as make their own logo's. This would reduce the cost of the uniforms and teach the kids at the school another skill. They won't though because this won't earn them as much as having an exclusive supplier giving them an xx% kickback!!!!
    • Occy
    • By Occy 4th Sep 11, 11:06 PM
    • 145 Posts
    • 293 Thanks
    Occy
    We are in the same boat as a lot of angry parents, my daughter's senior school has one supplier only and they are terrifically expensive (25 for a grey girls skirt).

    We dutifully ordered items from them two weeks before start of term, I got a phone call saying the did not have the stock the size I wanted and blamed me for ordering too late, geez you can not have it both ways.

    Occy.
  • sturose
    We are in the same boat as a lot of angry parents, my daughter's senior school has one supplier only and they are terrifically expensive (25 for a grey girls skirt).

    We dutifully ordered items from them two weeks before start of term, I got a phone call saying the did not have the stock the size I wanted and blamed me for ordering too late, geez you can not have it both ways.

    Occy.
    Originally posted by Occy
    IMO the quality of the clothing from these exclusive suppliers is no better and in some cases worse than the generic suppliers.

    My nephew who lives with me is very heavy on clothing, when we could purchase the clothing from any supplier he rarely ruined his trousers. Since the sole supplier he has ripped them, broken zips and generally worn them out.

    I am extremely angry about the situation, it has absolutely nothing to do with quality, more about the schools image but what annoys me most is that schooling is compulsory but supposedly free in this country but schools are free to force us to purchase a uniform from a specific outlet, earning themselves money in the process.
    • popadom
    • By popadom 6th Sep 11, 5:55 PM
    • 779 Posts
    • 187 Thanks
    popadom
    and buy whatever.

    I know that the Head called a mother about her son's hair and her answer was that it would grow out and wasnt affecting his learning. Head pointed out that it was affecting others at school as they were copying.
    .
    Originally posted by smileyhappy
    It isnt really affecting their learning though is it? If schools have guidelines, i think the kids should try to stick to them. Im not talking about dying hari red as its not what should be done in school, but a hair cut is diffrent.

    I remember when i was in year 8 a boy came into school with almost no hair. The school said you cant have under grade 2 i think. the boy was really upset. But the school sent him home. It turned out the mum had cut his hair and totally messed it up by cutting to short. He couldnt really help it. It annoys me when schools pick on the kids first, then call the parent.

    edit: what can schools do if you dont sent your kids in the correct stuff. Education is free in this country. Could they suspend the kid? But when what.
    Last edited by popadom; 06-09-2011 at 5:58 PM.
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