adviceMonthly Advice Column

School Uniform costs

The school holidays are about to begin and as a parent I’m already dreading September. School costs can quickly mount up – uniform, transport, trips and probably more I haven’t even thought of yet – I’m really worried I won’t have enough money to cover it all. How will I manage?

School costs can seem overwhelming, but if you’re on a low income your local council might help you with some of the expense. As any parent knows there are a multitude of opportunities and requirements that go hand-in-hand with school and many come with a price tag.

For that reason there is support available when it comes to paying for school uniforms, trips and essential equipment. Some extra-curricular clubs such as music might also have funding available. You can find what your local council offers here

When it comes to uniform, schools have a responsibility to make sure they are affordable. A good starting point is the school website which will have the uniform policy, as well as how to find second-hand items.

Some schools will require branded items but these must be kept to a minimum in line with government guidance on affordability, available at If you are worried you still can’t afford the required uniform you should speak to someone in the school office who might be able to help.

In terms of food, children in infant school – reception, year one and year two – automatically get free school meals. If your child is in junior school – years three to six – you can apply for free school meals if you get certain benefits.

In some cases free transport is available. If your child is aged five to 16 your local council might help with free or lower-cost transport if you don’t live near school or your child’s unable to walk there. And for older children in a sixth form or training as an apprentice, there may also be support available. You’ll need to ask your local council if they can help.

There is more information on financial support that’s available for school costs and general budgeting advice on the Citizens Advice website – Search for ‘school costs’ for further advice on what help you may be able to get.