• Rising costs of school uniforms is leaving a hole in parent’s pockets

    rising costs school uniforms leaving hole parents pockets

    It’s mid-January and you are yet to recover financially from the festive season. Plus with children returning to school last week, the costs of stationery, school uniform and school fees are adding up. If your child has just started Grade R or Grade 1; you probably did not expect the escalating cost of sending your child to school.

    Apart from the school fees, the most expensive item is probably the school uniform.  The annual rising costs of school uniforms in South Africa are putting additional financial pressure on parents to fork out more money to fit out their children.

    It will probably set you back over R3500 if not more to fit your child out in the full school uniform, including school shoes and sportswear.

    So let me be one of those who are jumping on the band wagon by welcoming a probe by the Competition Commission into school uniform prices in South Africa.

    School uniforms create uniformity, a sense of pride and belonging. It also creates discipline whereby all learners look the same. Designs, colours and material of school dresses are specific to each school.  Manufacturing costs to produce school uniforms locally increases every year.

    A child grows on average 2.5 inches a year; bearing in mind that not all hit growth spurts at the same time. Not forgetting that a child’s feet are continuously growing. Perhaps you are one of those parents who need to buy your child a new school uniform or school shoes every year – depending on how fast they grow.

    The above are all coherent and factors to take into consideration when looking at uniform pricing.

    I am also well aware of the fact that I signed up to adhere to the school’s mandatory uniform policy, the day when I enrolled my children at their current school. Drafted many years ago. The policy states; all learners must wear the school’s seasonal uniforms. It also states that school branded items like, school bags, lunch bags, beanies, scarves and sportswear is compulsory.

    These branded items are available at the school’s clothing shop. Relatively inexpensive, so you won’t break the bank in purchasing it. It is durable and will last for years – that’s to say if your child does not misplace these items.

    However, given a choice in the matter between school branded and purchasing these items from any retail store.

    What would I opt for?

    Guess what, I’ll opt for the school branded items. Reason being, is peer pressure. School branded items like bags, caps and sportswear eliminates competition and peer pressure. Children look what their peers have and want the same. Not everyone can afford purchasing name brands like Nike, Adidas, Karrimor etc.

    That is not the issue of my argument.

    What really gets my goat is the fact that certain uniform clothing items are branded. By branded items, I am referring to specific school shoes, shirts, pants, underwear and socks and that schools have aligned with certain suppliers. Branded with the schools crest or name.  Making it very difficult for parents to source these clothing items from cheaper retail stores.

    Last year my daughters’ school changed their winter uniform. Making changes to the style, colour and material of the tunic. The transition period of phasing out the old winter uniform would be 2 years. Making the new uniform compulsory from 2019. Allowing learners who owned the old winter uniform to still wear it. Those who started Grade 1 and all new learners enrolled at the school, had to purchase the new winter uniform.

    Discontinuing the manufacturing of the old winter tunic with immediate effect as well as retailing thereof.

    All good and well for those who get a longer wear out of their clothing.

    Now having a daughter who constantly goes through a growth spurt, it meant that I had to purchase the new winter uniform as the old one was too small. Eliminating the option of the 2 year transition. Plus I had to purchase the new uniform for my youngest as well as the old winter uniform was a hand-me-down from my eldest.

    Whilst parents were informed of the change of the winter uniform tunic, we were not informed of additional changes to the winter uniform policy.

    The introduction of the new winter uniform required it to be worn with a blazer. Compulsory blazers as part of the school uniform were previously from Grade 4. Worn with both summer and winter uniform. Now with the new winter uniform, blazers are compulsory from Grade 1 but not to be worn with the summer uniform. This meant I had to buy a blazer for my youngest that would only be worn for one season of the year.

    How silly is that? A real waste of money.

    The tunic style of the new uniform does not compliment all shapes and sizes. Plus the quality is not all that great. The long sleeve shirt is now an open neck and has the school’s logo encrusted on it. Thus making it exclusive. Leaving parents with only two options, either to purchase from a specific retail supplier or the school’s uniform shop.

    Now here is where it gets interesting.

    The price of the new winter tunic and shirt is rise per size. So the bigger the size, the more you will pay. The old winter tunic had a flat retail price. No rise per size. Purchasing of the long sleeve shirts could be from any retailer. Making it affordable for parents. With blazers now compulsory from Grade 1, these costs range from R570 to R900 depending on the size.

    It gets even better.

    The big discrepancy in price when purchasing from the school clothing shop instead of the specific supplier ranges between R70 – R100.

    rising costs school uniform leaving hole parents pockets


    Yes a big difference in price, making the school clothing shop the cheaper option.  The only problem is, that the school shop does not always have enough stock, leaving parents no choice than to purchase from the specific retail supplier. They also don’t sell blazers, resulting that you need to purchase this from the specific retailer supplier as well.

    So how is this possible? Surely there shouldn’t be such a big price difference. Does the school get the uniform directly from the manufacturer at a special cost price? Or is it that the specific retail supplier puts a mark-up on the price for almost a 100% profitability?

    Either way, this does not help parents at all.

    The probe by the Competition Commission will investigate whether schools are getting kickbacks from manufacturers. The commission want school uniforms to be more generic; making it more affordable. Giving parents the option of purchasing uniform items from various retailers. They want exclusivity of the uniform to be limited to certain items only.

    As a parent, I have an expectation that paying more for a school uniform, these clothing items should be durable, of a good quality and that children should at least get a 2 year wear out of it by making it adjustable.

    Hoping that a final decision will be made on this and that parents can breathe a sigh of relieve.

    I would like to know what your views are on this, feel free to leave your comments.



    1. January 23, 2018 / 2:35 pm

      Thankfully school uniform isn’t that expensive here, certainly not for my Reception aged son. Having said that, he is already in his second pair of shoes since he started in September! #dreamteam

    2. January 24, 2018 / 3:13 pm

      Uniform is not that expensive here and often it can be only the sweatshirt is branded so polo shirts or trousers can be bought from supermarkets who all make inexpensive items. Your system does sound very expensive! #fortheloveofblog

      • Noleen Miller
        January 25, 2018 / 8:37 am

        You guys are so lucky there – it is very expensive here not to mention the school fee amounts.#fortheloveofBLOG

    3. January 24, 2018 / 3:27 pm

      Secondary school uniform in the UK is so expensive! You can’t even save money on blouses as the collar has to be embroidered with the Tubblet’s house colour. It makes me cross as well. The schools here do second hand sales to raise money on behalf of the school – which helps a bit #fortheloveofBLOG

      • Noleen Miller
        January 25, 2018 / 8:38 am

        It really does cost parents a lot of money. As the winter uniform is new – there is no second hand yet.#fortheloveofBLOG

    4. January 25, 2018 / 10:48 pm

      I had to wear school uniforms, along with my two brothers. I remember even in the 90s it really cost a fortune. I can only imagine how hard they are to afford now, especially if kids are growing quickly. #fortheloveofBLOG

    5. January 26, 2018 / 8:50 am

      You raise such good points. I do know that for our school though, the branded stuff is way more expensive than the generic stuff. The swimming costumes, for example, are double the price of a Woolworths plain costume, yet both are permitted. I’m really interested to find out the outcome and hope you share it when you know.

      • Noleen Miller
        January 29, 2018 / 9:38 am

        Hoping that the outcome rules in favour of reducing the costs.#lekkerlinky

    6. January 26, 2018 / 10:08 am

      Another thing I don’t understand is why any school would make any item of school clothing – WHITE!!! Why? As a mother I can’t even wear white because my kids dirty me. The state of my 6 year old’s white shirts and white takkies is shocking and it’s only week 3! A call needs to be made for more practical and better quality clothing, as you said.

      • Noleen Miller
        January 29, 2018 / 9:39 am

        I share your sentiments not to mention white ankle socks. I struggle to get those white again.#lekkerlinky

    7. January 26, 2018 / 10:51 am

      This is one of my bugbears. I had to get specific school branded sox for school from the designated school. One pair of sox cost R100… And it is horrible quality. But there is no where else where I can get it. The quality of the other school clothes and the sizing is also ridiculous. The age 7-8 pants I had to buy her is 20cm (yes 20 cm per leg) to long for her. I need to shorter it. Not put in a large seam. I had to CUT OFF 20CM. And the pants were R350. I can’t wait for the Comp Commission to sort some of this out. Sorry… rant over. #Lekkerlinky

      • Noleen Miller
        January 29, 2018 / 9:43 am

        It is really costly and sizing can be a real pain for some. My youngest daughter is 8 but still wears 2 sizes smaller as she is tiny. I try and buy her bigger so that she can get a longer wear out of it and which will be more cost effective but altering those clothing items is a nightmare. Hope they rule in favour of lowering the cost. It’s ok, I share in your ranting as it is ridiculous that uniform prices must be so high and the quality poor.#Lekkerlinky

    8. January 27, 2018 / 1:07 am

      im not there yet thank goodness but next year is a whole new ball game, thanks for the headsup

      • Noleen Miller
        January 29, 2018 / 9:44 am

        Hoping that perhaps next year the prices will be lower, if not then you are in for a shocker.

    9. MrsFF
      January 28, 2018 / 8:45 am

      My little one is in Grade 00 so still two years before we get to the full uniform stage but even now we have to get the school cap at R160 and if they do after care you need to get 2! And the school wind breaker haven’t even been brave enough to ask how much that costs. Surely these things can be made more affordable and schools can use certain generic items to make it easier for Parents. We already pay so much for fees that just the thought of shelling out thousands on uniforms is scary. Hopefully the competition committee will make some headway .

      Oh and I hope schools learn to use fabric that work for this weather

      • Noleen Miller
        January 29, 2018 / 9:47 am

        The costs will increase as your little one gets to higher grades and the quality I’m afraid not not get better. Hoping that the ruling will be favorable for all.

    10. MrsFF
      January 28, 2018 / 8:47 am

      My little one is in Grade 00 so still two years before we get to the full uniform stage but even now we have to get the school cap at R160 and if they do after care you need to get 2! And the school wind breaker haven’t even been brave enough to ask how much that costs. Surely these things can be made more affordable and schools can use certain generic items to make it easier for Parents. We already pay so much for fees that just the thought of shelling out thousands on uniforms is scary. Hopefully the competition committee will make some headway .

      Oh and I hope schools learn to use fabric that work for this weather

    11. January 30, 2018 / 10:53 am

      My secondary school uniform could only be bought from one shop and I remember my mum remarking it was very expensive to kit us out every year. However if you buy from supermarkets in the U.K. I gather the price isn’t too bad. The price difference between the school and shops is crazy in your post! I hope they make it more reasonable for you. Thanks for sharing with #fortheloveofBLOG

    12. February 1, 2018 / 11:21 pm

      I hope they can do something to relieve the burden of these high costs! It definitely seems that branded clothing ensures you can’t easily buy from thrift stores or the like. You can’t even get hand me downs from a friend who has a child in another school. #GlobalBlogging

      • Noleen Miller
        February 5, 2018 / 11:23 am

        Hoping so too.#Globalblogging

    13. February 4, 2018 / 5:21 pm

      We’ve yet to start buying uniforms for our girls. It’s not right that manufacturers and businesses should take advantage of parents. #globalblogging

      • Noleen Miller
        February 5, 2018 / 11:13 am

        More like exploitation – hoping that the commission can make a ruling on this soon.#globalblogging

    14. February 4, 2018 / 9:54 pm

      I can’t believe how we expensive things are! And blazers being compulsory from grade 1 is kind of ridiculous in my opinion. I read parts of your post out loud to my husband. We’re both feeling extremely grateful for the decision we made to homeschool now. 🙈😂 #LekkerLinky

      • Noleen Miller
        February 5, 2018 / 11:12 am

        Uniform policies at schools are mind boggling. How lucky are you to be homeschooling – it is indeed a privilege.#Lekkerlinky

    15. February 4, 2018 / 10:18 pm

      We started grade one this year and it was exciting in that it eliminates the morning clothing choice struggle and I am hoping it is cheaper in the long run.
      So far no new uniforms in our horizon, and yes we will be visiting the swop shop if needed but possibly in a quiet time because kids can be mean.
      I have another 2 years before we have to buy uniforms and in the interim buying clothes for preschool that will last is my other challenge. A great read. #lekkerlinky

      • Noleen Miller
        February 5, 2018 / 11:11 am

        Second hand and swop shops are great – most people do it at my daughters’ school. Hoping that prices will drop by the time your little one goes to school. Thanks for reading my post.#Lekkerlinky

    16. February 5, 2018 / 10:55 pm

      School uniforms can be so expensive at the best of times, but it must be even worse when they change the uniform, giving parents no choice but to replace everything. Thankfully, our school requires a branded school jumper / cardigan, and then the shirt and trousers/dress just have to be a certain colour rather than branded. That means we can source those from much cheaper places. I’m also glad I have 2 girls so I can save uniform for the younger one. I hope your campaign is successful as it could make a real difference. #blogcrush

      • Noleen Miller
        February 6, 2018 / 9:11 am

        Well they have ruled on 1 of the findings yesterday that uniforms should be more generic and that school crests should be purchased separately just to iron on. They still have to rule on the other issues. At least what they ruled on is a little step in the right direction.#Blogcrush

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