IT SEEMS like no time since the little darlings were charging out of the school gates with the blistering hot, dry summer holidays to come stretching ahead of them.
Of course the hot and dry elements of summer failed to appear. And now we’re already on countdown to the beginning of a new school year.
For hard-up mums and dads, it’s one of the most expensive times of the year. School uniforms, new shoes, school bags, sports kit, even pens, pencils, new lunchboxes and the obligatory “start of term” haircut – it all adds up.
Luckily, supermarkets and high street stores are slashing the cost of many of the basics. Cheapest around is Aldi, which is claiming to provide an entire school uniform for £4, while even school uniform stalwart Marks & Spencer is offering polo shirt, trousers or skirt and sweater for a mere £8.
But while saving money is one thing, it’s false economy if the goods either aren’t up to scratch or – perhaps an even tougher challenge – the kids hate them.
Here with help from the new generation of primary ones, Conal McCartan and Imogen Macmillan, both five, and seasoned scholars Hamish, 12, and Ellie Hanna, 15, we put a selection of uniforms to the test.
CONAL picked a cotton jumper (£4 for pack of two), polo shirt (£3 for three) and trousers (£8 for two pairs).
A man of few words, it was down to mum Mairi to sum up: “The jumper had more washing instructions than the others we tried but although it’s 100 per cent cotton, it feels quite thin. Cheap and I don’t know how long it would last.
“The polo shirt is a bit thin feeling, but the nicest shade of dark blue of the ones we tried. As for the trousers, they are cheap but I don’t know if they’d last long. The material is a bit rougher than some others and not so nicely made.”
IMOGEN looked grown-up in her white polo shirt (£3 for three), navy cardigan (£6) and navy dress with zip (two for £10). But what did she and mum think?
Imogen summed it up as only a five-year-old can: “These polo shirts are boring,” she huffed. “I like the frill at the bottom of the cardigan. And I love the flower zip on my dress.”
Mum Christina was reasonably impressed. “Although simple, these polo shirts are very good value for money. The cardigans are gorgeous, with a lovely frill detail, and fantastic value in a double pack. As for the dresses, they fabric feels quite stiff, but Imogen was still comfortable, and they’re good value in the double pack.”
CONAL picked a 100 per cent cotton jumper (£9), polo shirt (£7 for two) and trousers (£10).
Although fairly uninspired by a plain polo shirt, he was still able to give the John Lewis one a thumbs-up: “The tops all look the same, but I like the feel of this one best,” he said. And mum Mairi liked the jumper: “The thickest we looked at,” she says.
While Conal liked the trousers, mum Mairi was concerned that the washing instructions recommended using a steam iron and a pressing cloth – a fiddle for any busy mum. “Not that practical for me, but the nicest fabric and feel out of the three we tried.”
IMOGEN picked a two-pack of white girls’ polo shirts (£8), navy cotton cardigan (£11) and navy box pleat tunic (£15). She gave the polo shirt top marks: “I love the flower shaped buttons and frilly collar and sleeves,” she says.
Christina nods: “Nice quality polo shirt with cute, girly detail, perfect.”
The cardigan also got the thumbs-up. “It feels lovely and soft,” says Imogen, while Christina agrees: “A very good quality cardigan, plain and practical.”
The tunic was also a winner for Imogen. “I like how soft it feels and the buttons are nice,” nods Imogen. Mum’s a little less impressed: “It does feel soft, but will probably require careful ironing to maintain the pleats.”
MARKS & SPENCER
CONAL wore a jumper (£10), polo shirts (£6 for two) and trousers (£8).
“This was the softest jumper, 80 per cent cotton,” says Mairi. “And the polo shirt had the nicest collar.
“The trousers have nicely lined pockets but the fabric feels slightly harsher. But I think they’d last, so they’re probably worth the money.”
IMOGEN picked a two-pack of girls’ with polo shirts with pockets (£6 for two), a navy cardigan (£8) and navy permanent pleat pinafore (£10).
Imogen was happy with the polo shirts: “I like the frilly collar and pocket.”
Christina agreed: “The frill on the collar makes this a cute alternative to a plain polo shirt, and very good value for money.”
And the pockets on the cardiagan were also a winner for mum and daughter.
The pinafore was also top of the class: “I like the four buttons on the front,” says Imogen and Christina agrees: “This is an adorable pinafore with the wraparound design and four buttons.”