12 best school uniforms for the new term than won't break the bank

Beat the back-to-school shopping stampede with our top picks, from pinafores and trousers to shirts and coats

Heidi Scrimgeour@heidiscrim
Tuesday 25 August 2020 09:55
Schools can be surprisingly fussy about school uniform regulations, so check them – and then check them again – before you buy
Schools can be surprisingly fussy about school uniform regulations, so check them – and then check them again – before you buy

Forking out for school uniform is always a little wince-inducing. We love snapping a pic of our kids in their smart new gear for the obligatory back-to-school post on social media, but kitting kids out for the new term can be eye-wateringly expensive when you add it all up.

Choosing your school uniform supplier carefully is key to getting value for money, and durability should be your top priority. Yes, you can clad your kids out in the cheapest school kit available affordably, but there’s a strong chance you’ll need to replace much of it well before the school year is over.

The other thing to keep in mind is the fact that children grow during the school year – a lot. Rare is the parent who gets all the way to the end of the summer term on items of school uniform bought way back at the start of the year.

If your son’s trousers haven’t turned into ankle swingers or your daughter isn’t rocking a miniskirt by the Easter holidays, you’ve more than got your money’s worth.

The other important thing to remember is that schools can be surprisingly fussy about school uniform regulations, so check them – and then check them again – before you buy. Some schools insist that boys’ trousers should be a particular shade, for example, or that girls’ skirts must be A-line rather than pleated.

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t buy a size up on the basis that your child will grow into their uniform over the course of the year. Anyone who suffered the indignity of wearing an ill-fitting school uniform will tell you it’s not an experience any child should be made to endure.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

M&S 2 pack senior boys’ slim fit non-iron shirts: £11-15, Marks & Spencer

Shirts are a bone of contention in our house, but these were instantly declared the hands-down best school shirts ever. We didn’t think a slim fit would make that much difference in a shirt but it really does – our teenage testers are refusing to wear a different shirt ever again, so we’re stocking up. Now if we can just keep them that sparkling white colour…

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Tu grey jersey pinafore 2 pack, 3-12 years: from £6, Sainsbury’s

A jersey pinafore dress offers a little extra something in the comfort stakes, particularly for youngsters just starting school who might find rigid dresses and starchy colours a bit much. The bow detail on the waist is a tad girly for our five-year-old tester, but she likes the button fastening on the shoulders.

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Trutex standard fit cotton V-neck jumper: £15.99, Trutex

Soft and cosy, this jumper keeps its shape well. We love that you can pop it in the tumble dryer too – hurrah for low maintenance school uniform.

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Tu unisex blue polo shirts 3 pack, 3-12 years, from £2.62, Sainsbury’s

These polo shirts are excellent value for money and generously sized for a comfy fit. They also wash well and dry quickly while staying soft. And they don’t look too crumpled if you don’t get round to ironing them.

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Morrisons nutmeg red cardigan: from £5, Morrisons

Our five-year-old tester took such a shine to these cardies that she happily took to wearing them outside school hours. The colour is lovely and vibrant and shows no sign of fading after several washes.

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Next formal slim leg trousers, 3-16 years: £8-13, Next

Our teen tester gave these the thumbs up – the adjustable waistband means you can get the perfect fit for maximum comfort without faffing about with a belt. The stain-resistant fabric seems to help keep them looking smarter than the average pair of school trousers after repeated washing and wearing.

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Next formal stretch skinny trousers, 3-16 years: £8-13, Next

The stretchy polyester blend in these trousers means they can withstand more bend and flex than standard school trousers – we found they were just the ticket for kids who spend every break and lunchtime playing football. For tall, slim children, these offer the best fit thanks to the skinny design and adjustable waist.

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Matalan boys 2 pack long sleeve school shirts, 4-16 years: £4-7, Matalan

As well as being great value for money, this pack of two long sleeve shirts were especially comfy, according to our tester, under a school jumper. Our tester likes the adjustable cuffs, and we especially like the easy-iron fabric.

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F+F pleated skirt 2 pack: £10, Tesco

Of all the school skirts we tested, these were the ones our testers rated the very best. The fabric quality is brilliant – thick without being too starchy – and the pleats keep their shape after washing.

Buy in-store

Muddy Puddles explorer parka: £29.25, Muddy Puddles

Fully waterproof and super breathable, this parka has a cosy sherpa lining and is machine washable, so we think it’s the ultimate school coat. An elasticated hood and ribbed storm cuffs mean it’ll take whatever the weather throws at it.

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Aldi Lily & Dan joggers: £2.99, Aldi

Brushed inside for softness with an anti-pilling finish, these joggers are perfect for PE. They’re easy to iron, too. At this price, we don’t mind if they’re quickly outgrown, but they wash and wear well.

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Asda girls grey flippy school skort: £5, Asda

For girls who don’t fancy wearing a skirt to school, this flippy skort is the perfect compromise. It looks like a skirt layered over shorts and it has a stretchy waistband. Our five-year-old tester says this makes playing football in the playground much easier than her school pinafore.

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The verdict: School uniform

M&S’ boys’ slim-fit non-iron shirts are the best short sleeve shirts that our slim, style-conscious testers have ever tried. The formal slim-leg trousers from Next were their favourite trousers by a mile, and the Tu grey jersey pinafore was our five-year-old tester’s favourite option from the dresses we put to the test.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.