Where do Parents Work the Least and Most to Afford a School Uniform?

by Erin Yurday - January 19, 2020

Most parents cringe when it comes to buying back-to-school clothes and shoes for their child(ren). Between the PE kit, trainers, school shoes, and basic school uniform items, it's not unusual to fork over between £80 and £200 per child. Private school uniforms can easily cost 2X to 3X for specialty items decked out in school colours and embroidered with the school logo. We estimate that the average junior school uniform costs around £150 per child for the following plain (e.g., no school logos or colours) items:

Back-to-School Clothing & Shoes List

  • 2 Shorts/Skirts
  • 2 Trousers
  • 4 Short Sleeve Shirts
  • 4 Long Sleeve Shirts
  • 2 Jumpers
  • 5 Grey Socks/Tights
  • 5 White Sport Socks
  • 2 PE Shorts
  • 3 PE Polo Shirts
  • 1 PE Sweatshirt
  • 1 Black Leather School Shoes
  • 1 Trainers
  • 1 Blazer (optional/extra)

Parents who are budget conscious can try to save money by shopping at retailers selling lower-priced uniforms. There’s more to the story, however, since uniform prices from the major retailers are consistent no matter where you live in the U.K., but incomes vary significantly in different locations.

Since our goal is to flesh out how affordable it is to buy a junior school uniform, we priced the average cost of a uniform available across six major retailers - Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, M&S, John Lewis and Next, plus Start Rite, Clarks and Geox for shoes - and compared that to the average after-tax household income in each NUTS2 region.

The results are expressed as the average number of hours worked to pay for a set of school clothes and shoes. Our analysis reveals that parents in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and East and West Sussex worked the least to provide back-to-school clothes for their children, labouring 7.6 hours on average.

West Midlands, West Wales, The Valleys, Tees Valley and Durham parents worked the hardest for the school uniform. These parents typically toiled nearly twice as long, or for 13.3 hours to afford the school kit.

How Many Hours do Parents Work to Afford the School Uniform?

NUTS2 RegionWeekly IncomeHourly IncomeHours Worked to Buy a Basic School Uniform for One Child
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire£714£17.88.6
Surrey, East and West Sussex£706£17.68.7
Inner London£669£16.79.2
Hampshire and Isle of Wight£660£16.59.3
Outer London£641£16.09.6
Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire£614£15.410.0
Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area£571£14.310.8
North Yorkshire£568£14.210.8
Dorset and Somerset£550£13.711.2
East Anglia£548£13.711.2
Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire£534£13.411.5
Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire£514£12.911.9
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly£511£12.812
West Yorkshire£504£12.612.2
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire£502£12.612.2
Shropshire and Staffordshire£498£12.512.3
East Wales£492£12.312.5
South Yorkshire£488£12.212.6
Greater Manchester£486£12.112.6
Northumberland and Tyne and Wear£481£12.012.8
East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire£477£11.912.9
West Midlands£464£11.613.3
West Wales and The Valleys£461£11.513.3
Tees Valley and Durham£460£11.513.3


We started by choosing a basket of back-to-school clothes for a junior school child - while your family may buy a slightly different set of items, this gave us a good starting point for comparison purposes. We then researched the prices of our chosen basket of items of clothing or footwear by price checking each retailer’s website. Where different products were available, we took the product with the lowest price. The only exception to this is shoes, where we averaged the lowest and highest prices for leather velcro-strapped shoes for boys and leather mary janes for girls, where available. We figure that shoes are one area where parents don't always go for the absolute cheapest option.

When multipacks were offered (e.g., a pack of 2 shirts instead of just 1), we chose the multipack offer as that was the cheapest available. We standardized prices across retailers by dividing multipack prices by the number of items in the pack, thereby calculating a per-item cost. While clearly no one buys 1.5 packs of shirts (e.g., if, say, 3 shirts were desired), this method gives us a reasonable price. Those buying pinafores instead of skirts for their girls should budget an extra £1.50 - £10.50 per item, depending on retailer.

We then obtained regional weekly after-tax household income (using level 2 statistical regions, NUTS2) using the most recent data available (2015) from the Office of National Statistics and calculated what it translates into as an hourly wage, through dividing the weekly income by 40, reflecting a full (40-hour) week of work. Next we divided the total cost of our basket of clothes and shoes by that hourly figure. This gave us the number of hours that the average local household would have to work in order to pay for the basic school uniform.