Inside how a North Herts primary school is keeping uniform prices low

William Ransom Primary School in Hitchin is keeping school uniform prices low with a second-hand shop

William Ransom Primary School in Hitchin is keeping school uniform prices low with a second-hand shop, with prices ranging from £1 to £4 per item - Credit: Nikki Beswick

A Hitchin primary school is taking on the rising prices of school uniforms with a second-hand shop, and hopes that other schools will follow by its example.

With the dizzying price of kitting kids out for school hitting headlines in recent days, William Ransom Primary School shared how its second-hand uniform shop, which was launched by the School and Parents’ Association (SPA) in March, is making - and keeping - uniform more affordable.

William Ransom Primary SPA launched a second-hand uniform shop back in March to tackle rising uniform prices

William Ransom Primary School SPA launched a second-hand uniform shop on school grounds back in March, in a bid to help the environment and tackle rising uniform prices - Credit: Nikki Beswick

According to 2020 data from The Children's Society, uniforms cost an average of £315 per year per primary school child, with secondary pupils coming in at £337. On average, these costs are more than three times what parents think is a reasonable cost for uniform.

"We just put it together knowing it was something headteacher Mrs Driver always wanted for the school," SPA committee member Nikki Beswick told the Comet. "I can't believe how much positive feedback we've had on it. It's had us questioning why we didn't do this years ago!

"We've kept it simple and very low cost. We've got a price list that suits all budgets."

And when Nikki say all budgets, the SPA really means it. With footwear selling for just £1, the more expensive wardrobe fillers - such as jumpers, cardigans and pinafores with embroidered logos - cost no more than £4.

Second-hand uniform price list from William Ransom Primary School in Hitchin

Second-hand uniform can be purchased from William Ransom Primary SPA's uniform shop for as little as £1 - Credit: Nikki Beswick

New government rules set to come into effect from next autumn stipulate that parents in England must be allowed to buy some uniform from High Street retailers as well as school suppliers.

Most Read

These legally-binding guidelines, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi says, would make uniforms "far more affordable".

As well as this, second-hand items should be made available and the cost of anything branded must be kept to a minimum.

"An embroidered cardigan at our shop costs £4 - where new, they could be anywhere from £18," Nikki explained.

With a clear focus on reduce, reuse, recycle, the SPA hopes that it is paving the way for a greener and more resourceful generation, encouraging their pupils to lead by its example.

The most expensive items at William Ransom Primary School's second-hand uniform shop cost just £4 

The most expensive items at William Ransom Primary School's second-hand uniform shop cost just £4 - Credit: Nikki Beswick

And, as the SPA is a registered charity, all monies raised get funnelled back into the school - meaning the benefits are twofold. The uniform shop, Nikki added, has been a great source of revenue for the school, and has boosted fundraising efforts at a time when it's been increasingly hard to get money coming in.

The SPA shop opens a couple of times a week at pick-up times and is manned by willing parents, and can bring in as much as £30 for the school each day.

"We've gone all high tech and got a card machine!" Nikki joked.

"Near enough every time we open, we sell something. There's a real demand for it. Everyone that comes says how amazing it is.

"And we've got a lot of stock of the first uniform sizes, so we're hoping - now we've spread the word out a bit more - anyone who's going to be starting next September will come to us and buy most, if not all, of their uniform from us."

A container packed to the rafters with uniform bits and bobs, the SPA aims to keep its supplies topped up so uniform is available all year around, and not just ahead of the new school term.

Proud of the success of the initiative so far, Nikki explained that although it did cost money to set up, the investment pays for itself and has a continuing positive impact for the school and families.

The second-hand uniform shop at William Ransom Primary School in Hitchin offers prices that suit all budgets

The second-hand uniform shop at William Ransom Primary School in Hitchin - run by the SPA - hopes to keep costs to a minimum, and offers prices that suit all budgets - Credit: Nikki Beswick

Being trailblazers and trendsetters working ahead of the curve, Nikki offered advice to other schools thinking of setting up their own shop: "Start at the basics and ask parents for donations of old uniform; that's where it started for us," she said, adding that the power of word of mouth really helped get their shop off the ground.

"I think all schools need to do it - maybe not to the depth of what we have because we are lucky, we've been able to get a container and a lot of space to store it all in - but I really do hope a lot of schools get on board."

And, with the guidelines from the Department for Education stating that schools should be offering the ability for parents to purchase second-hand uniform, what better time to start than now?

Thrilled to be at the epicentre of change, Nikki said: "This is what can be done. Let's get cracking!"

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter