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The Cost of the School Day

That cost what!?

When we think about the start of a new school term we can all picture the happy smiley faces that appear on social media as wee Russell skips off to school in his clean uniform, shiny shoes and backpack. The joy on the children’s faces as they start a new term with a ‘school coat’, PE wear and an ‘indoor’ pair of shoes. 

What social media doesn’t show us however is the cost, not just the price tag cost, but the cost to the environment. 

 As we look to hosting our largest ever school uniform swap we have explored just how much does uniform cost the family and the environment. 

Kelpies piled with school uniform

In a shocking news report from June 2022 ( Parents bin 100,000 wearable school uniforms each year in Scotland, enough to 'climb the Kelpies' | STV News ) we were presented with the image above of the Kelpies and the estimated 100,000 outgrown but wearable school uniform that was thrown out in Scotland in 2022. The research report by ‘My nametags’ provide further shocking statistics into the wasteful nature of school uniform;

  • 1.4 million wearable school uniforms are thrown away in the UK every year. 

  • 81% of parents buy their children new school uniform every year. 

  • 30% of parents buy their children bigger clothing items so they can grow into them. 

  • When it comes to damaged items, almost half of parents said they would prefer to throw the garment away than attempt to fix it. 

There is then the fact that most school uniforms are made from polyester, which is, as most of you will know, plastic. Polyester can take  around 200 years to decompose, even then, polyester does not fully decompose, it breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics, which can persist in the environment for hundreds of years and contribute to plastic pollution.  So whilst that outgrown t-shirt lasts the 1 child 1 term, it is still around for hundreds of years after.

As shocking as this is already, we now turn to look at the financial cost of school uniform. 

Reports state that uniform for one child can range from 100-£400 per year! This is on top of other clothing items that children need for non school uniform days.

In our own report in 2023 conducted by Community Enterprise, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, we asked participants how much money they had to spend on children’s clothing each month after all other outgoings. Quite shockingly we had some stating that they had no money. No money left over to purchase clothing items for their children.

Our survey also brought up some heart-wrenching truths that families are facing, some stating that

they feel anxious about the cost of items such as shoes, school uniform and good winter coats. Others stated that at times they have eaten less and showered less as parents in order to afford clothing for their children. There was a real sense that the child comes first, with the needs of the parents coming last, this includes wearing tattered old clothing so their children don’t need to. 

This does not need to happen! 

  By coming to a Berwickshire Swap event you can save children’s clothing, toys and baby items from landfill and save your family money. 

 At our Big school uniform swap we currently have 23 boxes of uniform ready to find new homes. In these boxes there are branded and unbranded t-shirts, jumpers, trousers, skirts, dresses and shoes. We have sizes from age 4 to age 12.  You can bring along pre-loved uniform on the day or drop it off at one of our drop off points before the event, we will have volunteers sorting items as they come in. By choosing just 1 item of pre-loved school uniform, you will save money and stop items heading unnecessarily to landfill. 

Entry to this event is by donation.

To find out more about Berwickshire Swap and our upcoming events check out our Instagram @berwickshireswap and Facebook.


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