Parents to shell out £1.56 billion ahead of the new school year

23 August 2016

  • UK parents will spend an average of £186.24 per child on kit for the new school year
  • Parents spend more on technology than on school shoes
  • Three in five parents worry about how much the new school year will cost them
  • Cost of the back-to-school period worries parents more than the cost of the school holidays
  • A quarter of parents will rely on credit cards to fund purchases
  • More than £650 spent on school lunches and the school run per academic year

With just over a fortnight left before the start of the new school year, new research1 from Nationwide Credit Cards shows that British parents will shell out an average of £186.24 per child kitting them out. This means that £1.56 billion will be spent this summer, ensuring the UK’s 8.4 million2 school children are ready for the start of the new term.

There is also a parental age differential when it comes to back-to-school spending because, according to the Nationwide survey, older parents appear looser with the purse strings than younger parents. Those aged 55 and over will spend the most money (£218.76), followed by those that are between 45 and 54 years old (£217.28). On the other hand, those parents between 25 and 34 years old will spend the least (£162.14), closely followed by those parents aged between 18 and 24 (£162.19).

Spending per item
The following table provides a breakdown of the specific items that will be purchased and how much the average British parent will spend. It also highlights the difference in spending on each item by parental age group

  UK average 18-24 average 25-34 average 35-44 average 45-54 average 55+ average
School uniform (clothes) £31.29 £21.43 £25.71 £32.26 £35.75 £34.21
School shoes £25.90 £18.11 £20.71 £26.92 £29.96 £27.98
Jackets and coats £22.17 £17.24 £18.30 £22.05 £26.02 £26.15
Sports shoes (e.g. plimsolls) £19.44 £12.85 £14.80 £19.37 £24.20 £23.30
Sports kit £16.36 £10.46 £13.16 £15.81 £20.20 £20.39
Sports equipment £8.95 £7.11 £8.00 £8.12 £11.00 £11.09
School bags £12.35 £9.70 £11.31 £12.05 £14.00 £13.10
Stationery £9.21 £7.57 £8.22 £9.05 £10.40 £10.42
Books £7.85 £7.85 £6.99 £7.04 £9.43 £10.69
Lunch boxes £6.60 £7.37 £7.49 £6.45 £5.80 £6.57
Technology £26.12 £42.50 £27.45 £20.78 £30.52 £34.86
TOTAL £186.24 £162.19 £162.14 £179.28 £217.28 £218.76

School uniform and shoes clearly take up the biggest proportion of expenditure at 31 per cent. More than half (52 per cent) of parents admit they will spend £31 or more on the school uniform, while two in five (40 per cent) admit they will do the same on the school shoes.

However, it’s not just clothing that is costing parents because technology items are also on the shopping list and taking up 14 per cent of the bill. Technology is also where younger parents outspend their older peers with the average 18 to 24-year-old parent spending on average £42.50 per child, compared to those parents aged 35-44, who spend just £20.78.

Location, location, location – where do parents buy the school kit?
While shops requested by their child’s school remain the predominant place for parents to purchase all the necessary school uniform, more and more parents are turning to supermarkets and department stores for items in the hope of keeping costs down.

Shops requested by the school are the most popular place to purchase the following items:

  • Jumper/Sweatshirt (52 per cent)
  • Tie (36 per cent)
  • Blazer (30 per cent)
  • Sports Kit (31 per cent)

The study also shows that supermarkets are the place to purchase the shirt/blouse/poloshirt (46 per cent) and skirt/trousers (47 per cent), while parents choose department stores for shoes (43 per cent) and the coat/jacket (36 per cent).

Finances and worries
With so many items needed, parents are naturally concerned about how they are going to finance these purchases. Around three in every five parents (59 per cent) are concerned about how they will pay for everything, with mums (64 per cent) worrying more than dads (53 per cent).

As a result, more than a quarter (26 per cent) of parents will rely on their credit card, with more than one in ten (11 per cent) admitting they will turn to the grandparents for financial help. More than a third (38 per cent) of parents say they will need to dip into their savings to ensure their children have everything they need for the start of term. More than half (51 per cent) say they will use cash sitting in their current account to fund items needed.

The Nationwide survey also highlights that more parents worry about the cost of the back to school period (40 per cent) than worry about how much the school holidays are going to cost them. When asked to consider what worries them more, men and women are concerned about how much the back to school period will cost in equal measure. Yet, when it comes to the school holidays, mothers are more concerned (44 per cent) than fathers.

The school run
Once the uniform, shoes, sports kit and stationery have all been purchased and the children are ready to go back to school, parents then turn their attention to getting the kids to school. For those adults whose children usually go to school by car (43 per cent), school bus (18 per cent) or public transport (17 per cent), the school run is yet another expense with an average of £5.96 spent per week per child, which totals £232.443 over the course of the academic year. However, some will avoid most of this cost as more than half of parents (55 per cent) say their child will usually walk or cycle to school.

School lunch
It doesn’t stop once they are back at school because parents also have to ensure that the children are properly fed. The Nationwide poll shows parents will spend on average £2.17 (up from £1.88 in 2013) on each child per day on school lunch, which equates to £423.153 over the course of the school year.

Richard Mould, Nationwide’s Head of Credit Cards, comments: “Going back to school can be an expensive time for parents, particularly after the summer holidays, so it is no surprise that some parents are choosing to spread this cost by using their credit card, especially when there are a range of cashback and zero per cent purchase deals available.

“It doesn’t just stop once kids are back at school either because parents then have to turn their attention to how their children are going to get to school and be fed at lunchtime. It’s no wonder that parents see school as a never-ending vicious cycle of costs.”

Notes to Editors

1 The poll of 1,736 UK parents of children aged 4-16 that will be at school in September 2016 was carried out by online market researchers,, and took place between 27 July and 9 August 2016.

2 Tables: SR43/2015, Table 1.2:

3 School year: 39 weeks or 195 days
School lunch: £2.17 per day x 195 days = £423.15
School travel: £5.96 per week x 39 weeks = £232.44

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