E starts school next month. She will be one of the youngest there, but somehow despite this I think she’s ready. She’s eager to learn things and is positive about school. Last month she had a morning session there to meet her teacher, new classmates and the buildings and took it all in her stride. She’s also had ‘homework’ (to decorate a shoebox) and has been taking it very seriously, working hard to put her own flair on her box. It’s a riot of Star Wars characters covered in flower stickers, female superheroes cut from wrapping paper, butterfly stickers, dinosaurs, coloured cellophane and glitter glue.
Of course this means we’re stepping into the murkey world of school uniform shopping. The school asks for white tops, grey skirts or trousers and the school’s branded jumper or cardigan. This then comes with additional things like white socks, school shoes, and the PE kit. Black or white shorts, a white tshirt and black plimsolls. Therefore more socks.
High street shops appear to have conceded the supply of most school kit to the supermarkets, most of whom do excellent deals on packs of polo shirts, skirt/ trousers two-packs and the gingham summer dresses. The best high street shop to get a lot of these things used to be BHS, close to my office and relatively inexpensive, but that’s gone.
In the interests of research I stopped in at M&S, somewhere I never go except in desperation. Not even for pants. They had a good range of white socks and grey tights, though hardly any in E’s size, and the polo shirts were twice as expensive as Asda/ Sainsbury’s but in packs of two, not three.
Nothing for PE. Not even packs of white tshirts. I considered buying white boys vests for a moment but had a flashback to my primary years where I had the same pair of shoes as a boy in my class and spent the term being teased for wearing boys’s shoes. The 40-year old me wouldn’t care, the 6-year old did very much.
So supermarkets it was then. Our nearest is Sainsbury’s and I picked up some skirts there but it’s a small store and their clothes selection isn’t vast so there weren’t the right sizes for polo shirts. Their plimsolls also had embroidered pink hearts on the top and I’ve read so many horror stories about pupils being sent home for the wrong shoes that I decided against it.
So we had a special trip to Asda. Their range is massive, and I picked up everything we needed except shies which I will get in Clarks. My only gripe was the gendered packs of polo shirts which I didn’t actually notice till I got home – the girls have scalloped collars and come in pink packaging. I’d inadvertently bought boys crew neck tshirts for PE (blue packaging). Sainsbury’s do gender neutral packs.
We bought 6 tops, 2 lots of socks, grey tights, plimsolls, t shirts, shorts, a new swimming costume and a new anorak plus hair bobbles and clips to match the royal blue uniform and it came to around £40. E pushed the trolley (badly) and then we went for coffee. (This is a mistake. Asda coffee comes from a machine and isn’t drinkable. They even managed to mess up the fruit toast. Shocking.)
In the spirit of the new term, I sewed name tapes on all of them that very afternoon.
And so to shoes. Clarks, obviously. And they measured E’s feet. The girl brought out the only ones they had available in her size – a choice of two. So we return to the stories of children being sent home from school because their shoes weren’t appropriate. I had some doubts about whether the first lot were quite right. I don’t want to be that parent, or at least not yet. The first pair had silver sparkly insoles, lights on the bottom of the shoes (you can turn the lights off when she’s at school, the girl said. And how long would that last, hmmm?) and large jewel flowers on the front. E, of course, loved them. Who can blame her?
I managed to get her to get the other pair, which were more appropriate but still had ballet dancing rabbits on the soles and came with a sheet of stickers. But really, do we want to have a moment to think about why Clarks put such rubbish on shoes? I know school shoes are dull black things but really.
Anyway, we’re now kitted out. I think. I hope.