Saturday 3 December 2016

New year, new gear - best uniform guide

Published 05/08/2016 | 10:17

Planning
Planning

New year, new gear. Uniforms can be the most time-consuming and expensive part of the Back to School bustle and really hit the bank balances of parents.

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While book costs, after-school activities, voluntary contributions and sports costs mostly remain static, the good news is that when it comes to school uniforms, there’s huge variation in value.

Parents that take time to do their homework will be able to make great savings and then sit back and enjoy the summer.

So how do you ensure that you’ll ease in to September and get your scholars back to school in style?  

When it comes to Back to School time, the best source of advice is actually other parents and recognising this, Tesco Ireland has harnessed the power of parents across the country in a new parents panel.   Speaking to mums and dads, they’ve collected the most practical feedback and top tips to share, from those who know best.

Here are the Top 10 things to consider when buying uniforms for the Class of 2016:

1. Make it a Day Out

Bringing your child with you when shopping will make the entire experience more enjoyable and you’ll be sure of the best fit. They’ll undoubtedly have preferences in style, particularly as they get older. Dressing for school doesn’t need to be boring and there are plenty of different styles, all within the same budget range, to suit all mini fashionistas. 

“I make a special day out of buying clothes and shoes for back to school. We always have a nice lunch together after shopping” says Sharon from Limerick. 

Uniform ranges have now really expanded to include different styles, so it can be fun as your child expresses their individuality and sees what they like, such as slim leg trousers, skirts with belts or shoes that light up for happy feet!

2.  Be Smart with Shoes

For younger children, particularly those starting school, don’t buy shoes with laces, as they will be busy concentrating on all the new experiences around them and this will only be an added complication for them. “Get school shoes with Velcro, as they’ll be able to put them on themselves and there’s no worry of little feet tripping over laces”, advises Claire from Cork. 

For younger girls, an alternative to the t-bar style with buckle is a pair of pumps with elastic straps or shoes with a velcro strap that are easy to open and close.  Always go for the scuff resistant styles where possible so that your children can kick around in comfort.

3.  Get More Bang for Your Buck

Make a list, set a budget and stick to it.  When it comes to uniforms, the key priorities should be style, quality, comfort and functionality.  Then it’s all about research.  Multiple shopping trips can be expensive and time consuming, so where possible it’s best to find a one-stop-shop that will allow you to browse uniforms, stationery and fresh food without having to move between stores.  Only 1 in 5 parents in Ireland manage to get all their back to school shopping done in one go.  62% of parents say that they start planning for back to school as early as June and July and over a quarter now find their tips for back to school planning on social media.

4.  Buy a Size Up

A 2016 Back to School Survey of 1,475 parents across Ireland done by Barnardos has found that the average cost of preparing children for school is now €340 per child in Senior Infants, rising to €395 in 4th Class and up to €775 in 1st year. These are the average costs and parents that research clearly and give themselves time will be able to make sure that they are getting absolutely the best value that they can. 

A good piece of advice is to go a little larger (but not too large) when looking at uniform sizes.  “Kids grow up so fast, so I tend to buy their uniforms a size up so they last a little longer”, says Belinda from Cork.  Another option is to go for plus-size uniforms which are a little more generous in fit or trousers and skirts with adjustable waists that will last longer.

5.  Are you Eligible?

You may be eligible for help with Back to School costs without realising it.  The Department of Social Protection offers a Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) to help parents meet the cost of uniforms and footwear for children going to school.  The allowance for each eligible child aged 4-11 is €100 and €200 for older children.  Some people get an automatic payment, but those that wish to apply can do so until 30th September.

6.  Always Question the Quality

The Irish League of Credit Unions has done a new survey on Back to School Costs for 2016, noting that costs have steadily increased year on year from 2012 and 81% of parents of school going children (primary and secondary) feel that the cost of sending their children back to school is a significant financial burden. 

This emphasises the importance of seeking the best value possible, but it’s also important to look for the best quality.  As mum Claire from Cork advises: “When it comes to uniforms, you can’t skimp on the quality or you’ll pay the price with frayed elbows!”

7.  Go Generic

If the policy of your school is to purchase a uniform with a specific crest, see if you can go generic and purchase a plain jumper and then make cost savings with an iron-on crest.  If this cannot be done and the policy is to go to a specific uniform shop, then mix and match the branded item with generic trousers or skirts. 

Make sure you check closely whether school jumpers should be v-neck or round-neck, if both short sleeves and long sleeves are permitted for shirts at your particular school and whether your child is permitted to wear shorts instead of tracksuit bottoms, as they may prefer this choice in September or across the warmer months.

8.  Rough Magic 

It’s baffling to see how many stains can appear during the average school day, so why not take advantage of what’s new to make life easier, especially the non-iron versions of school uniforms.  Go for stain resistant shirts as they will look much fresher for longer. 

School knitwear now often has new and improved fabric that is soft and bobble free and keeps the colours vibrant.  “Make sure to look for uniforms that are machine friendly to ensure they don’t lose their shape in the wash”, suggests Audrey from Limerick.

9.  The Power of Permanent Pleats!

All uniforms, with even the best of care, can get a bit bedraggled as you get further into term time.  Encourage your children to change their clothes when they come home from school to lengthen the life of school uniforms and spot clean stains where possible during the week, rather than doing a full wash. 

Another great recent innovation in school uniforms has been the introduction of permanent pleats in pinafores and skirts which look much sharper without any effort.  Another tip is to look for versions of boys trousers that have reinforced knees – again to get more value and make them last longer – a very valuable asset in the school yard!

10.  Ace the Accessories!

When uniform shopping, don’t forget the accessories and extras which can sometimes be left until the last minute or simply forgotten.  When it comes to jackets, if there isn’t a school specific jacket, go for something in a plain colour that will really work on rainy days, like a parka.  For schoolbags, try to buy something that won’t date.  For girls – hair accessories such as hairbands, bows, clips and bobbins give a great opportunity to express individual styles.

From the smallest uniforms for the first day at school, to the more fashion conscious older children, planning ahead will mean you won’t dread the end of summer freedom and the return to routine  - you’ll have top marks – without the stress!

And whatever you do – don’t forget the socks!

For more Back to School tips and tricks, visit our Food & Community Hub or check out the latest uniform range from F&F here.

Sponsored by: Tesco

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