Money Wellness
Image of a primary school pupil in uniform carrying a tray with her school lunch
category iconbenefits
category iconcost of living
calendar icon07 Sep 2023

Nine out of ten schools have provided uniforms to families struggling with the cost of living

More than 87% of schools in England have provided uniforms and clothing to children as their families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

90% of schools have also had to cover the cost of extra-curricular activities for pupils, according to a report by the National Foundation for Education Research.

The report went on to reveal that 70% of families are also relying on their school to provide food through breakfast parcels, food banks, food vouchers and subsidised breakfasts.

And the majority of head teachers in England (84%) have said that cost of living pressures have increased both the numbers of children needing additional support and the level of need, especially in the most disadvantaged areas.

However, the problem is wide reaching and it’s not just children from low-income families – identified as those who receive free school meals – who are suffering. With three-fifths of schools (68% primary and 63% secondary), reporting that more than 50% of the pupils they’d helped are not eligible for free school meals.

 Cost-of-living pressures are also having a negative impact on children’s mental health, with more than 25% of pupils in mainstream schools needing extra support for their wellbeing this year, representing a huge increase from 2022. The number is even higher in special schools with 40% or more accessing mental health support.

 

What help is available with school costs?

Grants

School uniform grants are handed out to low-income families by their local council. They’re worth up to £150 per child but how much you get, and if you qualify, depends on where you live and your council’s criteria.

One council could offer nothing, another £30 and a third £150 because the government hasn’t set fixed rules.

How they’re paid also differs with some councils transferring money into your bank account, others reimbursing you once you’ve bought uniform or offering vouchers.

School uniform grants – if there’s one available to you – are typically offered to children who receive free school meals or whose parents claim means-tested benefits, such as universal credit.

However, they can sometimes also be offered to families who don’t receive school meals, providing they can prove they’re facing financial hardship.

If you’re eligible for a school uniform grant, you’ll be able to claim it for each child but will be restricted to claiming once every school year.

To find out what your local council is offering, visit their website. You can find who your local council at www.gov.uk

 PTA’s and charity grants

PTA’s are the fountain of all knowledge and put the money raised from all those cake sales and summer fairs to good use. Check with your school’s parent teacher association (PTA) to see if they can provide any financial help. You’ll usually be able to get their contact details from the school office or on the school website.

There’re lots of charities that also run their own grants to help struggling families. You can check out what support is available at www.educational-grants.org.

Pre-owned clothing

Children grow quickly and parents often have to replace their school uniform several times before the end of term. Lots of school clothing has more wear left in it so it’s always wise to shop around.

Young Planet is a great place to start – it’s an app where parents donate children’s items to help other children. There’re hundreds of pre-owned, lightly worn or used items – and lots of uniform – all looking for a new home. What’s more it’s free.

You could also check out Facebook marketplace to see if local parents have any old uniform available or see if your school has set up a dedicated website or resource to sell on pre-owned uniform. Schools are required to make sure second-hand uniform is available to all parents and should clearly signpost you to their second-hand scheme.

Alternatively, it might be worth checking out charity shops. Lots of local parents donate their old uniform to charity. Some high street brands also donate brand new uniform to charity shops so you might be able to pick up a bargain.

Free transport

You might be able to get help with the costs of sending your child to school if your school is more than two miles away and your child is under 8, or three miles away if your child is 8 or over.

You may also qualify if there’s no safe walking route between your home and school or they can’t walk there because of special education needs, disability or mobility problems.

If your child doesn’t qualify for free school transport for these reasons, they might still be able to sue the scheme for free if you’re on a low income.

Alternatively, why not speak to other local parents to see if you can get a carpool going so you can share drop offs and pick-ups.

Or find out if your school is participating in a walking scheme where children can walk with their friends safely to school.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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