Are you feeling the ‘back to school’ pinch?

PUBLISHED: 15:09 06 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:09 06 September 2017

Going back to school can be very expensive. Picture: Getty Images/istockphoto

Going back to school can be very expensive. Picture: Getty Images/istockphoto


Charlotte Smith-Jarvis’ school shop for her two children was up to £500 this year. What did you spend?

When I opened my purse this week moths and dust flew out. Okay okay, so I’m over exaggerating (slightly).

Why the drama? Well, let me tell you I was feeling fleeced, because boy are the summer holidays expensive. After weeks of keeping the kids entertained, and factoring in a family holiday, most of us start to feel the pinch in August. But then there’s the dreaded ‘back to school’ shop. Argh.

According to statistics from Nationwide, this year parents have spent a staggering £1.48 billion getting their children ready to go back to school. That’s nearly £180 per child.

In my day (so I’m talking about the 90s here) uniforms were pretty affordable, and there was a strict budget for stationery. The latter usually involved me pleading with my parents for a fluffy pink pencil case or funky Tipp-Ex mouse - because I absolutely positively needed them of course.

My own children’s pre-school shopping expedition cost me an arm and a leg. Approximately £500. Yes that’s £500 British pounds. And I shudder to think what the price tag would have been if they were privately educated.

Let me break it down. My eldest is just starting high school and needed all manner of kit, which was changed by the school this year to be branded. Great for the facility, which sees its emblem emblazened across every single top. But this sucks for us poor parents who have to switch from buying three packs of plain T’s for a fiver, to shelling out up to £10 apiece for a polo shirt!

So her clothing came in at about £130 or thereabouts. Another £20 was spent stocking up on tops and jumpers for my son, whose clothing at the end of term always looks like it’s been used for some kind of outback expedition.

Next to tick off the shopping list was school shoes. Because of a mantra struck into me from my own childhood, I always ensure my kids’ shoes come from Clarks. Now I don’t know if they’re any better for their feet. I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t wear the brand’s school shoes that’s gone on to have weird claw-like pods, but was I going to risk it? That was another £110 down the pan. I took hubby with this year for the first time ever and he likened the experience to being trapped within Dante’s Inferno. A tide of measuring staff covering the floor. Flustered parents (yes us included) convincing their children they really don’t need the shoes with the toy in the box. And kids like our daughter, who got in a right flipping strop because she thought all the shoes looked babyish. Give me strength.

Rugby boots (probably to be worn once) were an essential piece of high school kit, and with footie boots and trainers added £115 to our running total.

Then there was a flabbergasting race against time in town (our parking ticket was running out) where we forked out another £125 on school bags, pencil cases and Lord knows what else. How I yearn for the simple, one-stop-shop of my youth. Our stationery trolley dash sent us to The Works, Smiths, Smiggle and Paperchase, for goodness sake. Don’t get me wrong. I love a bit of a saunter through Paperchase, but honestly, does my daughter really need an £8 pack of highlighters shaped like lipstick? Or my son, 101 colouring pencils?

Probably not, but, like my own parents, I gave in.

And so to term time and the barrage of Parentmail emails nagging me to pay a few quid here, a few quid there for trips and other odds and sods, or telling me to pay for school dinners and clubs. I might as well just leave my bank card at the school gate and be done with it!

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