Savings on Back-to-School Essentials

Published: 10th August 2023


Government regulations

Savings on back-to-school essentials

Earn cashback on essential items

Money management for children at university

Make life more affordable for the working parents in your business


Employee Experience Series:   Supporting Working Parents: Savings on Back-to-School Essentials

Our third blog on supporting parents in the workplace explores how you can help your employees save on back-to-school essentials through our discounts platform and employee cashback card. Purchasing everything children need for school is expensive, but from shoes and clothing to new pencils – we can help relieve the financial burden.


“The average cost of compulsory secondary school uniform and sportswear items in England in 2023 is £96.24 per pupil.” The Schoolwear Association


This figure reflects the cost of a child starting secondary school, where it’s the norm for pupils to be required to wear many branded items, usually provided by a specialist stockist. When it comes to these branded items, there isn’t space to shop around for the best deal. Unless parents can purchase pre-loved or receive hand-me-downs from friends and family, they’ll be expected to pay this price – more than once.

Children grow and play, and parents will need to purchase replacement and larger-size clothing as and when needed. While the above figure represents secondary or high schools, depending on the tier system in your county, many primary and infant schools in the UK also have branded uniform policies.

This is why it’s essential to help parents make savings where possible.

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Government Regulations

The price of school uniforms hasn’t escaped parliamentary debate, and the government introduced statutory guidance in November 2021. Whilst the guidelines don’t specify price limits, they dictate that branded items should be kept to a minimum.


“Schools should carefully consider whether requiring a branded item is the most cost-effective way of achieving the desired result for their uniform.” Department of Education


On 30 June 2023, The House of Commons published a second report on school uniform costs in England. The 2023 document reiterates the 2021 guidelines, reinforcing the notion that instead of providing financial assistance for parents struggling to purchase school uniforms, schools should aim to make items affordable for all.


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Savings on Back-to-School Essentials

Jumpers, blazers, and PE kits may have to be on brand, but often, bags, shoes, shirts, skirts, and trousers just need to be a specific colour. This means that parents can shop around for the best deals.

When you partner with Sodexo Engage, you can help the parents in your business get an even better deal!

Our Discounts Platform gives employees the opportunity to purchase discounted eVouchers, giving them a digital code to apply at the checkout when they buy items online or via a barcode if they use them in-store.

You’ll find school shirts, skirts, dresses, and trousers at most supermarket retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and M&S. You can also find school clothes at New Look, H&M, River Island, Primark, and John Lewis.

We’ve also got shoes and trainers covered, with Clarks, Aldo, Shoe Zone, Decathlon, Rubber Sole, Zalando and Selfridges offering discounted vouchers. Let’s not forget everything your children need once they’re at school. Stationery items are available in the supermarkets mentioned above, but you’ll also find WHSmith, Ryman, and Hobbycraft on our Discounts Platform.

With Sodexo Engage’s Discounts Platform as part of your employee benefits offering, you’ll be giving your employees access to discounted vouchers with all these retailers, making the best deals even better!

Savings in Action

The items listed below don’t cover everything parents need to purchase for the start of a new school year, but it shows how the costs add up:

  1. 1 x pack of five school shirts: £16
  2. 1 x pack containing two sets of trousers: £15
  3. 1 x pair of shoes: £30
  4. 1 x calculator: £10
  5. 1 x pack containing two sets of jogging bottoms: £10
  6. 1 x school bag: £20

Total cost: £101 (based on the average and approximate price of items, excluding the branded elements of the uniform).

If your employees purchase all these items with a retailer offering, for example, a 6.5% discount on their vouchers, they’ll save £6.56.

We always say that these small savings build up when discounted vouchers are purchased regularly, telling a bigger story and creating a more substantial savings pot.

However, sometimes it’s the small things that matter.

While shopping for what their children need, your employees could take some time for themselves and use this £6.56 to cover the price of a coffee and a slice of cake.

Self-care is essential, after all.  


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Earn Cashback on Essential Items

We partner with over 80 retailers to bring you our Employee Cashback Card, some of which are listed above. When a retailer is available on our Discounts Platform and Cashback Card, your employees can find the best option or deal for them. Cashback varies from retailer to retailer, with up to 15% offered by some.

It’s not just about percentages, it’s about mindset and preferred behaviours.

For example, with our Discounts Platform, the saving is upfront because you purchase vouchers at a reduced price.

As for our Employee Cashback Card, your employees purchase their goods at face value. If they take our shopping list from above to a retailer offering 6.5% cashback, they’ll spend the whole £101. However, they’ll earn the £6.56 as cashback.

Your employees can either enjoy the buzz of instant savings - of less money leaving their bank account or get a boost from watching their pot of cashback grow, deciding when and where to spend it.


Money Management  for Children at University

Perhaps one of the best things about our Employee Cashback Card is that you can allow your employees to purchase a partner card. Whilst many employees gift this to their partner or spouse, it can also be allocated to a child, age 18 years or over.

Students and the bank of Mum and Dad… Many of us have been there on one or both sides of the coin.

University is expensive, especially when living away from home, so what better time to teach the workforce of tomorrow how to make their money work harder than at a time when it really needs to?

Our Employee Cashback Card is a prepaid card powered by Visa, and recipients can use it online and in-store, wherever Visa prepaid is accepted.

Whilst parents can pay an allowance or emergency funds directly into their child’s bank account, once it’s spent, it’s spent. However, if they load the money onto an Employee Cashback Partner Card, their children can earn as they spend, stretching funds further.

Our vast list of retailers includes supermarkets and restaurants, so cashback can be earned on the things your children need and the activities they love.

Start your children’s financial education as soon as possible – they’ll thank you for it in the long term when they can afford more of what matters today and in their future.


Make Life More Affordable for the Working Parents in Your Business

There are more ways to support working parents, including spreading the cost of essential tech, such as laptops, with our salary deduct scheme.

Balancing work, life, and children is hard, but as the three blogs we’ve shared during this series on supporting working parents prove, employers can alleviate the burden. Whether through creating a support network, helping new parents get started, or stretching salaries further, there are many ways your business can make a difference to working parents and all employees.

We're happy to talk you through it, so feel free to arrange a call to discover how to build cost-effective and sustainable support into your employee engagement and people strategy.



The Schoolwear Association

The House of Commons Library

Statutory Guidance on the Cost of School Uniforms


Please note: All legal and savings information provided is valid at the time of publication but may be subject to change in the future.