Back-to-school: how much it costs?

It’s time to go back to school. In addition to the emotional cost that implies for pupils, there is a money cost for parents. Let’s see, the situation in Europe countries, like France, Spain, and UK.

The first observation is that the cost is similar, around €200 per child, in the three countries, from €190 in France to €232 in Spain, passing through €219 (£186). These amounts are, of course, approximate, as the calculation methods are different in each country. Other sources indicates very sensitively different figures. Beyond the raw numbers, the differences in practice and problematic depending on the country are sometime curious.


The French data comes from a study by the family association “Familles de France”, and is based on a product basket made of 45 references needed by a child of 11 years old.  It points out that the cost is not the same whether you buy in the hypermarket, in the supermarket, or in specialised shops.Familles de FranceWhile you will spend “only” €176 per pupil in the hypermarket, that cost will grow up to €197 if you make your shopping in the supermarket, and to €212 if you make it in specialised shops. Regarding online shopping, high disparities of cost from one website to another are observed.

Net-Veille Systems can confirm it. For a same school agenda, the price between the most expensive website and the less expensive one can be more than 40% !   Comparison

But in that country, the State is to take care of everything!

First, a back to school allowances foreseen for some 2,8 million families: € 363 for a pupil between 6 and 10 years old, €383 from 11 to 14, €396 from 15 to 18. Families buying well will be able to make a profit. However, parents associations are claiming for an increase of those amounts and to get students elder than 18 benefiting from that assistance.

Then, the French Republic helps you with a list of examples of what you should buy:

France fournitures

The United Kingdom:

In this country, the State will – depending of the point of view – less help, or less meddle in your business. The GOV.UK website will only signals you that “if you are in England, you may get financial help from your local council”, and that grants exist in Northern Ireland.

That is about school uniforms. A big issue in the UK, as the government recall that “your child can be suspended or expelled if they repeatedly ignore the uniform rules.”

UK Pupil

While in France, where the school uniform is barely used, (sport) clothing is less than one quarter of the total cost, in the UK, the related survey, from “Nationwide” made on more than 1700 parents, regarding children aged between 4 and 16, shows that closing and footwear (school uniforms, shoes, jackets and sport kits) make up more than the half of the total cost: €118 (£100). The charity “Family Action” signals that families are being pushed into debt by the high costs, and families on the poverty line will spend up to 40% of one month income on back-to-school expenses.

For that reason, while only 36% of parents worry about the cost over the summer holidays, they are 40% to be worried by financing the back-to-school purchase. In 11% of cases, the British grandparents will be founding it, instead of the parents.

As in France, high price differences are remarked depending on the channel. Some 46% of parents will buy school shirts, skirt, and trousers from a supermarket, while discount chains such as Aldi or Lidl are engaging price wars.

Here is the average amount parents expect to spend on back to school costs per child, according to Nationwide:

  • School-uniform clothing: £31.29
  • School shoes: £25.90
  • Jackets and coats: £22.17
  • Sports shoes: £19.44
  • Sports kit: £16.36
  • Sports equipment: £8.95
  • School bags: £12.35
  • Stationery: £9.21
  • Books: £7.85
  • Lunch boxes: £6.60
  • Technology: £26.12
  • Total: £186.24


In Spain, where some schools request uniforms and some others don’t, the Cetelem-Investmarket survey foresee an average cost of 232 € per child.

A particularity of Spain is the multiplicity of sources giving different figures on the same issue. The consumers association CECU estimates a cost per pupil between €300 and €700 for 60% of the family, and the average spending of €1000 in 14% of the cases.

Another source, price comparator, applying another methodology, estimates that €392 is the average cost. According to that entity, sport choose in Spain cost average €46, while school backpack costs around €48 in Spain.

Regarding uniforms, according to the consumers organization OCU estimates the cost to €132 for public schools and €204 for the private ones.

Coste cole

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