I read a post the other day saying how home education can save a lot of money over the school age years. Not having to buy school uniform, no expensive school trips to pay for, no asks from the school for PTA funding etc. I commented saying I didn’t think it was like for like comparison, and that home education would have its own costs. Plus of course, if your child suits school and you believe in schools for education, then there’s so many more benefits to being in school which can be a lot harder to come by with child-led home ed.
But school can be expensive. I went to private school for 6th form, and while the main uniform was quite easy to get hold of from any shop for the girls, for PE kit it was a few hundred pounds because of all the variations you needed with house colours for matches. N’s primary school has logo tops but the prices aren’t too bad compared to some I’ve heard quoted, and they’ve been lasting us over a year each size. For the number of wears they get we don’t do too badly with them for the price we pay.
But many people want to get the best value out of their school days. I thought a (partially tongue in cheek) look at getting better value from school might be in order.
How to get better value from school
1, Find a school which has wraparound care onsite
Schools with wraparound care tend to charge less than private wraparound care clubs. A friend of mine only pays around a fiver a day after school care – run privately but on school grounds! I’m jealous.
2, Check the after school club offering
Some schools have lots of different choices for after school clubs. External coaches running sessions can cost quite a bit depending on the activity and area of the country. But schools often run teacher led clubs which can be a lot cheaper or free. Check they fit in with the hours you need though as most teachers want to go home at a reasonable time, so you might have a gap before you can get there from work.
3, Propose local school trips within walking distance
Some schools have amazing trips, even at primary school. But add in all the little short trips to swimming or area school events, and you’ll find you’re paying out a lot on coaches and packed lunches. Our school in contrast, tends to do lots of smaller local activities with the children, maybe one bigger trip a year, but still fairly close, and then residential in the top class.
I always look at other school’s exciting trips, but N loves the catchment trips they do to other schools, and the walking visits to see places in the village. Just getting outside the school grounds is exciting to primary school children – at least when in key stage 1.
4, Have a child who isn’t keen on organised activities or sports
I joke but it really does keep costs down. Obviously we go out on day trips a lot and UK breaks several times a year, but N doesn’t do many extra-curricular activities. Swimming is an essential, and he still goes out of school as well as school swimming. And tennis – which is pricy, and he does have a private lesson and group lesson each week. But he won’t play musical instruments, he isn’t interested in doing other sports (other than golf which my brother teaches him in the garden, and even locally the junior sessions are quite cheap).
Comparing N to me – where by the age of 9 I did something most days, whether it was ballet, modern dance, clarinet, brownies, netball, tennis, music school and added more sports once I got to secondary school.
5, Handmedowns or second hand sales
School uniform doesn’t always have to be expensive. Although not everyone can buy cheap supermarket clothes for school. Look out for second hand uniform sales – especially for things like blazers or jumpers which are expensive. Or ask around if anyone you know has older children who went through the school previously. Lots of school uniform must go to waste, because it has a limited second hand audience, so it’s definitely worth asking around, or offering it to others if your children have finished with it.
Have you any other tips on getting better value from school?
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