We asked 10 parents and a professional tailor to rate the quality of school uniforms from shops including Marks and Spencer and Tesco – without revealing which uniform came from where.
Their verdict? There were only small differences between the lot, with parents voting Marks and Spencer (M&S) as their favourite, and the tailor picking Sainsbury’s school uniform as the best, both by narrow margins.
School uniform mini-test
As part of our snapshot test, we asked a panel of 10 mums and dads who had kids at primary school to look at the quality of the materials used in school uniforms from Asda, BHS, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
They rated each piece on whether it seemed hard-wearing and sturdy enough to withstand the rough and tumble of the playground and also gave their opinion on the quality of the uniform’s finish, from the seams and hems to colours and buttons.
All the labels were removed so the parents didn’t know where the uniforms – including trousers, shirts, polo shirts and jumpers – were bought from, but some parents couldn’t find any major differences between them.
M&S uniform (the most expensive) was rated by our panel as slightly better than the others, with Sainsbury’s (second cheapest) close behind.
It was a similar story in 2008, the last time we fully tested school uniforms – then, we also found little to tell most of the uniforms apart.
We also enlisted a tailor to compare and rate the uniforms. Again, he found no significant differences between the uniforms but thought the material used in the Sainsbury’s uniform was the best quality and would last longer than the others.
Asda and M&S schoolwear were the next best, according to the tailor, both with ‘above average’ material quality. BHS, meanwhile, had average fabric quality, and a shirt collar that could ‘chafe a child’s neck’.
Tesco came bottom of the pile. Our tailor thought the trousers could ‘go hard and stiff after washing them’ and the shirt’s collar would be ‘very uncomfortable’.
Cost of school uniform
The cost of school uniform, thanks to supermarkets and high street shops offering rock-bottom prices, has plummeted in recent years. The total cost of the uniforms we tested were: Asda £18, Sainsbury’s £19.50, Tesco £22.88, M&S £27 and BHS £27.
The uniforms included two pairs of trousers, two shirts – three with Tesco and BHS – two polo or t-shirts, and a jumper.
But we also found a significant number of parents have to buy some or all of their child’s school uniform from specialist shops, which can prove more expensive. Of 1,000 parents we polled, 68% with primary school children and 84% with children at secondary school had had to buy some school uniform from a specific store.
School uniform shopping tips
Take advantage of these extra offers if you’re about to kit out your kids for the new school term:
- Asda: free delivery when you spend £20 or more on schoolwear online – enter code SCHOOL2 at the checkout.
- BHS: free delivery when you spend over £10 online.
- M&S: free standard delivery on uniform bought online (not including 16+ range) – enter code UNIFORMS at the checkout (ends 13 September).
- Sainsbury’s: an extra 25% off offered on some schoolwear items instore until 30 August.
- Tesco: £10 off when you spend £40 or more online – enter code AW4C at the checkout (ends 4 September).
More on back to school: why the cost of school meals could rise.