Friday, 26 August 2011

Back to School Basics Creditfree

The cost of sending our little darlings back to school looks set to increase by £27 million this year - an awful lot of money...


As both parent and teacher, the things I resented most were uniform lists that read like a six-month survival kit and the tendency for kids to break or mislay equipment within a couple of weeks. The trick is for parents to take control and to mete out their spending affordably. None of this mad dash around the shops when you’re living creditfree! 

A few of years back, Citizens Advice ran a wonderful campaign, urging parents to put pressure on schools to cut uniform costs. Some Heads like to make their mark by introducing “smart” blazers and ties, but in reality, this distracts from learning. Fair enough if there’s a history of hand me downs that all the town knows, but school wear was never meant to become the equivalent of Man U’s away kit this season.

If you’re stuck with a list without compromise and school does not have a second hand shop, have a look at some of the online exchanges. You may even be able to sell items here too, because goodness knows mow much kids grow as soon as you’ve bought them something! is a little sparse at the moment, but worth a try, and seems well stocked. Some dress exchanges have started to carry uniform, like our local, and the trusted charity shop is always a help.

To challenge rules that state how many tie stripes must show, or the colour of socks for such and such a sport, join the PTA and kick butt. A good uniform is pragmatic – basic work wear in common colours with an appliqué logo that you can remove and replace onto a larger size. Far more important are kids who turn up equipped and on time, which of course includes affordable basics that allow poorer households to invest in decent overcoats, sturdy footwear and bags that do not fall apart. 

Uncomfortable children disrupt lessons, so when this affects your child’s learning, consideration for others makes for an investment in your own. Raising awareness of substantially reduced outer and footwear at catalogue clearance websites like, and can overcome the barriers of mainstream discounts that offer more than you need or can afford, though they do require patience and some navigation.

Nowhere will you see more damage from our consumerist society than in a classroom where kids have run amok. It’s my guess that few teachers were surprised that rioters turned on their own communities because too many of us have seen unruly children break up the contents of their pencil cases for over a decade now. Some schools simply replace missing equipment, reinforcing the disposability of it all. Good schools offer nice stationery as rewards.

Even if your child does not indulge in converting stationery into missiles, be aware that an enthusiastic classmate might. I have never given my son more than a basic kit, keeping a vast stock of equipment well hidden, ready for the start of a new term or exams. As ever in the creditfree toolbag, shopping out of season is a must. February is the best month for picking up back to school clearance, because the stock’s done the rounds through September to Christmas. Another alternative if you have a large family is to open an account for discount office supplies at such as Bulk buying fifty pens at a time for a couple of quid is always a steal and it’s also worth nothing that is still live.

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