One in three parents borrow money to afford their child’s school uniform, according to Save the Children NI poll


As schools start back, a poll commissioned by Save the Children NI has found the majority of parents surveyed (60 per cent) find it financially challenging to cover their children’s uniform costs.

The research, carried out by LucidTalk, reveals 30 per cent of parents have had to borrow money to afford their child’s school uniform or PE kit. Some families say they’re even having to cut back on food.

Seventy eight per cent of those surveyed feel not enough is being done by authorities to manage school uniform costs. Almost half (49 per cent) of the parents who reported uniform costs as a challenge are from better-off households, while 73 per cent of low-income households found covering the cost financially challenging. 

Key Stats 

• 1 in 10 (11 per cent) say their child had to miss school because of issues related to uniform/ PE kit 

• 30 per cent have had to borrow money to pay for uniform/ kit 

• 78 percent of those surveyed believe not enough is being done by authorities to manage costs 

• 97 per cent believe schools should ensure parents have adequate choice of school uniforms/ PE kit suppliers, with 64 percent supporting generic uniforms from high street shops as one solution to the growing problem of affordability. 

• An overwhelming majority of 99 per cent want action to be taken. 

‘It’s a sizeable chunk of money and by paying so much we have to reduce spending on food’

Parents have told us about the pressures uniform costs are putting them under.  One said starkly: “It’s a debt I need to get every year to cover the cost.”   

Another parent spelt out the direct consequences of these costs for them: “It’s a sizeable chunk of money and by paying so much we have to reduce spending on food.” 

While this grandparent told us they have had to intervene: “I’ve had to step in to assist financially for the first time this year. The cost to kit out three school age children has risen too much for their parents to afford. Too many items are school branded.” 

Save the Children’s NI Policy & Public Affairs Adviser Naomi McBurney said: For most families the uncapped cost of school uniforms and PE kits adds to their already stretched finances. This year more than ever budgets have been stretched and the pressure to afford even the most basic items has put many parents to the test. 

“Meeting the cost of expensive school uniforms and PE kits should not be an additional worry. Much of the cost often relates to unnecessary branded and logoed items which parents are forced to purchase from limited suppliers.  

“We urgently need to see action from school leaders and the Department of Education that better reflects what parents are saying.  Children have a right to access education and this should not be overshadowed by an inability to afford uniforms. The poll has shown there is an overwhelming need and appetite from both parents and the public for action to be taken. We would encourage all decision-making stakeholders to take heed and look at where costs can be reduced to ease the ever-growing pressure.”  

Save the Children NI runs a pre-loved uniform scheme, in conjunction with uniform recycling initiative The Scaffolding Project, at our store in east Belfast.   The charity’s Retail Manager Ronan O’Donnell said: “We have seen demand increase this year, as the cost-of-living crisis puts families under pressure like never before.”