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How Much School Uniform Do You Need?

Back To School - School Uniform Advice

Everything. You need to buy every item on the school list, in ten sets, plus lots of other stuff you probably haven’t thought of but should buy anyway….  

Well not quite! Moving away from what us uniform suppliers might dream of & towards reality, there is certainly a limit on what is needed. 

As parents start thinking about the kids going back to school, we’ve put down a few tips & tricks on what you should be thinking about, what you may want to buy & what you probably don’t need.

So whether you’re preparing for your child’s first day at primary school or need a quick refresher read on.

Laundry - What Will Your Strategy Be?

Laundry Machines

Before heading off to the shops (or clicking through to our school uniform collection), first think about what your approach to laundry is. More specifically, do you plan to do a wash every day, mid-week & over the weekend or just once a week?

Laundry? Is this an ad for Lanor? Give us a chance to explain.

If you’re planning on a wash every night then you can probably get by with just two sets of everything (& maybe just one for certain items).

At the other end of the scale, if you only want to do one or two washing cycles a week then you may want to get five of everything so that they have a clean set for each day of the week.

On a similar theme, check when P.E. kit comes home. If it’s every half term you’ll need one set (washing it in the holiday), while a more frequent returns home for the kit may mean you need more. 

Of course five of everything will cost you more up front, but remember there is a cost to running the washing machine in terms of your time, the environment & financially. 

According to Npower it costs around to 16p to run a washing machine, so if you can do one wash per week instead each evening you could save north of £24 over the 38 week school year.

While kids get dirty, we understand from parents (let us know in the comments if you disagree), that trousers & shorts will need cleaning daily, while you can get away with wearing a shirt or polo shirt for up to three days. 

You know your child best though & if you’re unsure we recommend applying your approach to washing their day to day clothes to school uniform (e.g. if you normally wash their t-shirts every other day, you may want to do the same with polo shirts or shirts).

Uniform Colour & Items included

Following on from the above, you may also want to have a think about what your school’s uniform includes.

Pale items will show dirt more easily. This is particularly the case for white polo shirts & the collars of shirts.  It also applies to your school jumper & cardigan, say, if the colour is a pale, light colour.

If you have items that are likely to have a short shelf life, you may want to consider buying an extra one for special occasions (like the school photo or when they go out on school trips).

Kids playing in winter

Don’t Buy Everything Now

Winter is coming...

You don’t need to get everything at once. It might be tempting to get it all done & out the way, but buying everything in August takes no account of changing seasons & your child’s (often speedy) growth.

Though many school’s ‘summer uniform’ continues through September & even up to the October half term, the real bulk of the period is during the actual summer term.  Accordingly shorts & gingham dresses bought in August will get little wear until the following April.

Compounding this, your kids will grow. Your little one may have outgrown purchases made in August come next summer. For the same reasons buying a few items now & then replacing them with the next size up in six months’ time may make more sense.

In any event, delaying some purchases will help your cash flow & hopefully will increase the chances of you getting full value out of an item of uniform before your child outgrows it.

Even with uniform girls and boys will pick up trends

Little Fashionistas

A bonus to delaying certain purchases is that you can also work out (or be told) what your children actually like to wear.

Even in their early years, kids notice what others are wearing & understand what is trending & what is not.  They also will have their own, independent preferences.

Do all the girls wear skirts or are pinafores the thing these days?  Do they actually prefer trousers? Do the kids actually all wear a polo shirt or are shirts & ties the norm?

Take the time to find out.  Have a word with other parents either at the school gate or through the school associated Facebook Group. You can even ask your own brood directly what they want.

In the meantime, why not buy a few of each items now & then top-up later in the year.


In the below list of school uniform, we’ve included two ties. Ties don’t get that dirty (usually) & so won’t need washing that often.  However, they are easily lost so we recommend buying a spare.

This reasoning can also apply to other items such as jumpers, polos etc. If you can afford it, a spare jumper or cardigan can be useful for emergencies.

Similarly, consider getting spare cardigans, jumpers & polo shirts that omit the logo.  Such items are often cheaper & are widely available, though consider if your school allows this & if not how strictly they enforce the rule. Other parents will be able to give a steer on this.

Our Recommended List

So, here is the list. 

We’ve come up with the numbers from parent feedback, our own sales figures & Department of Education figures on typical parent purchasing.



2 Skirts or 2 Trousers or a mix of both

2 Pinafores

5 shirts or 5 blouses or a mix of both

2 Ties

3 Polo Shirts

3 Cardigan or 3 jumpers or a mix of both

1 Book bag

1 Back pack (optional)

4 Trousers

4 Shorts (consider delaying until spring)

5 shirts

2 Ties

3 polo shirts

3 jumpers

1 Book bag

1 Back pack (optional)


In addition to the above, you’ll also need to consider socks & tights, winter clothing to wrap them up in, P.E. kit & stationary.

For tights, we suggest avoiding these on gym days as younger children may find these hard to change into on their own.

Winter wear is a great example of purchases that can be delayed, but when you do get round to it we recommend a coat, scarf & a couple of pairs of gloves (they get lost).  They may also like an infant umbrella.

For P.E. kit have a look at the school policy. You’ll usually need to buy sports shorts, plimsolls, a tee shirt or polo shirt & the school P.E. bag.


Recycle & Reuse

If this all seems like a lot, that’s because it is. Even if you spread out when you buy your uniform you are still unfortunately likely to spend a lot over the year.

The cost of school uniform is estimated to be over £230 for many primary school children.

However, there are a few ways to ease the pain.

First of all, if your children have siblings, you can of course hand down certain items from the older to the younger.  That way you can get as much value out of each item as possible.  Obviously, this works best if they are the same gender.

In a similar vein, contact your school to see if there are any school initiatives to recycle clothing. Many schools will do this with lost property, but some also will encourage families to bring in items their children have now outgrown. 

This is one for the early birds though, as most schools will organise this at the end of the summer term, not as the kids are going back to school.

For options outside of your school, check to see if there is a 'swap shop' in your area. For instance the Launch Project, a charity supporting the homeless in Greater Manchester, runs a scheme through which parents donate unwanted uniform for others to buy for a fraction of the retail price.

Finally, talk to your friends or neighbours & check out the Facebook group associated with your school.  Parents are all in the same boat & many will be happy to help.

Is there any help available?

Some councils & schools offer help with buying school uniform.  They often do this by using money allocated to them from the ‘pupil premium’, which is another reason why you should apply for free school meals if you’re eligible.

To find out if your council or school offers support, visit their website or contact them directly.

In Scotland families can apply for up to £100 towards school uniform purchases, following the same way they apply for free school meals.  Families in Wales can apply for a £125 Pupil Development Grant.  Northern Irish families can apply for funding of £35.75 to £56 depending how old their child is.

What do you think?

A lot of the above is advice that we’ve gleaned from parents & from what we have observed from our own sales figures.  However, the real experts on this are you parents. Please let us know what you think in the comments below.

How many items of clothing do you buy for you little ones?  Do you space out purchases over the year & how often do they need a wash? Let us know.

Thanks for reading