Reviewed by Louise Totton
I reckon that the cost of the kids going back to school in September could actually eclipse Christmas as the most expensive time of the year for families. Gone are the days where we could buy our uniforms for next to nothing from the supermarket – my daughter’s junior school is now insisting on fully logoed cardigans and polos (a single polo costs a whopping £9, and a cardigan is £14), and when my eldest starts high-school next September, we will have to buy blazers at £60 and even branded skirts!
Whether you have to spend a fortune on basic uniform or not, the other things that you have to find the money for add up as well – as well as the standard uniform, we have to buy school coats, leather school shoes, indoor PE kit, outdoor PE kit, PE trainers, school bags, stationery, swimming kits and wellies, all of which can add up to a small fortune, especially when you have more than one child to buy for. Between the two of my girls, I spent around £500 on kitting them out for school last summer holidays, all at a time when budgets are seriously stretched anyway with all of the additional expenses that having the kids off school.
This year, however, I have discovered Decathlon! I had always thought of Decathlon as somewhere to go for sporting equipment, and I bought mine and my daughter’s climbing shoes and harnesses from them, but had never really considered them as somewhere to go and buy school items. This year, however, we have been giving them a try and I have to say that I am very impressed – there are some really lovely items on the website and I was surprised just how inexpensive l lot of them were!
As I said, our school insists on proper, leather school shoes so I couldn’t get these from Decathlon, but I was able to kit both of the kids out with a waterproof school coat, outdoor PE trainers, a rucksack each and a full swimming kit for under £50 each, which I thought was a complete bargain – I would normally have spent well over double this on these items, so this is a significant saving for us. We have tried out:
- Quechua MH500 Girls’ Hiking Jacket in Grey / Blue £14.99
- Quechua MH500 Girls’ Hiking Jacket in Aubergine / Damson £14.99
- Newfeel PW 540 Kids’ Walking Shoes in Blue / Green £17.99
- Newfeel PW 540 Kids’ Walking Shoes in Crimson / Magenta £17.99
- Quechua MH500 Kids’ 15l Backpack in Green £5.99
- Quechua MH500 Kids’ 15l Backpack in Blue £5.99
- Nabaiji Leony + Swimming Set £9.99
A good school coat is probably one of the biggest single items that you might need to buy – in previous years, I have spent over £50 on school coats for the kids, and the cost is going up as they get older. This is due in no small part to the fact that at the age that they are at, they want to be fashionable as well as warm and dry, and as you get into the bigger sizes, the prices do go up. So I was really pleased with Decathlon’s options for school coats for the girls. I don’t tend to buy big, padded coats for them as when they’re walking to school, I think they can overheat and my eldest daughter doesn’t like bulky or constrictive clothing. If it is really cold, they wear base layers under their uniform anyway, but I prefer to send them to school in a warm but breathable coat. The Quechua Hiking Jacket seemed to be absolutely ideal for what we wanted – it is a fully waterproof and vented jacket, which is substantial and insulated enough to keep them in the winter months but is breathable and light enough for the intermediate time in Autumn and Spring too.
The Quechua is available in two different colours – a purply coloured aubergine option and a slate blue and lime option. Both versions are muted enough to pass as a permitted school coat at our school, but also colourful and individual enough that they allow the kids to express their own personalities; I have one daughter who is mad on pink, and another who wouldn’t be seen dead in pink! They are available for age 7 to age 15, but there are other equally lovely and practical options for younger kids on the website too.
These really are fantastic quality coats, and the kids loved them too – they felt super-cool when they tried them on! The coats have a proper, full hood which I really like as I’m never awfully keen on the ones that fold into the coat. They also have a little Velcro tab on the hood which allows you to Velcro them out of the way if the weather is fine and you don’t need your hood, which is far handier than one that is fully zipped away!
The seams all have waterproofing which is great to see and the zip has a flap behind it too for keeping the rain and drafts out there. I also love the design of the elastic on the sleeves, which gives them some flexibility making popping gloves on much easier. My eldest daughter was really impressed that there was a system for listening to music, as one of the pockets allows you thread your headphones through the inside of the coat for wire-free music listening – a massive bonus for kids who love their music. Finally, there is a big and strongly stitched in hook for hanging on a peg and space for writing a name.
This really is a super practical and high-quality coat. Both of the kids are really pleased with the colour options that they have been send, and I am delighted with the practicality and the price. the seams are all really well stitched, the zip is a YKK one and I am also really pleased that the pockets Velcro shut too, as both of the kids are a nightmare for losing gloves!
We were just as pleased with the Newfeel PE trainers that we were sent. The same as the coats, they are available in a range of colours – we opted for purple/magenta for one of the girls and teal/lime for the other. When they arrived and the girls tried them on, they both said that they were some of the most comfortable shoes that they had ever tried on! The shoes are Velcro-fastening, which is ideal for younger kids who aren’t quite independent enough to be tying their own laces yet and they are very well padded on the inside and around the heels.
The front of the trainers are made from mesh, which means that they should be soft and flexible from the first wear, and there is no need for the kids to have to wear them in to get them comfortable. They are incredibly light-weight, which should make moving around easier for them, especially when they are doing dance or playing indoor basketball. The soles are also non-marking, which is another requirement that our school has, and I know lots of other schools do too.
The Newfeel trainers are available from size 9.5 to 5.5, which I would imagine would cover most primary-aged children and some up to high-school too. At £17.99, I think these are fantastic value for money, as they feel like good quality shoes that really look the part too!
The Quechua 15l rucksacks (available in blue or green) are perfect for primary school kids too – they are on the smaller side so aren’t designed for secondary school children, but they’re ideal for carrying the things that younger children need to carry to and from school. You can easily fit their learning planner, a couple of reading books, a pencil case and a water bottle into them, which is about the limit of what they’d need to take anyway and they are just right for small primary school cloakrooms.
For such a small and inexpensive bag, they still have a number of features that you don’t necessarily seen even on more expensive backpacks. They have well-padded and fully adjustable straps, making it easy to get a comfortable fit for different sized children and they also have chest straps with clips. I always look for bags with chest straps for myself as I find them far more comfortable and supportive, and it stops the straps falling of little shoulders, helping to keep the load on their back well-balanced and prevent backache and sore shoulders.
As well as the main part of the bag, there is also a front packer which is accessed via a vertical zip, and two small mesh side pockets which are great for popping a water bottle or piece of fruit into for them. The same as the jacket that comes from the same range, the practicalities have been thought of too, and there is a large and well-stitched hook for hanging on a coat peg as well as tags on the zips to make it simple for younger children to zip and unzip independently.
The final item we were sent to try out was the Nabaiji Leony + Swimming Set. This fabulous little set includes everything that you child will need to start their swimming lessons at school, and is a genuine bargain at £9.99. the set includes:
- A swimming costume (or trunks if you opt for the boys’ version)
- A pair of adjustable goggles
- A swimming cap
- A quick-dry towel
- A drawstring bag to keep it all in and transport it to and from school
We loved the colours in this set – a mixture of pink, bright blue and navy blue. The costume itself is mostly navy with some brighter highlights, the cap is pink, the towel is bright blue, the goggles are pink and bright blue, and the bag is a mixture of all three colours.
Just like everything else we have tried from Decathlon, the quality and practicality are top-notch. The goggles are fully adjustable, and we had no issue at all getting a comfortable fit for my daughter. The swimming cap isn’t a rubber type; it’s made of the same material as a swimming costume, so it won’t keep your child’s hair dry, but it is a lot more comfortable to wear and far easier for them to get on. The towel is made from a microfibre material, so it folds up incredibly small and is super light but will dry a small child very easily and without them having to carry a bulky, heavy towel around with them.
As you can probably tell, I am over the moon with all of the items from Decathlon. They are very well priced, superb quality, ultra-practical and very stylish and attractive. I’m actually kicking myself for not trying them out sooner – I could have saved myself a fortune! I will be telling lots of people to check them out for their Back to School shopping as well as sports and activity wear!
For more information, to buy online or find your nearest store visit www.decathlon.co.uk.