Ask the school if they're planning any non-uniform days, and make sure you leave enough of a gap. If the school frequently asks pupils to come in fancy dress, hold a dress down day, or find a space in their schedule to hold an annual event.
Schedule non-uniform days away from other periods of disruption, such as exams and stepping up to secondary school days.
At Homer First School in Windsor, charity fundraisers such as Children In Need and Comic Relief are part of the school's culture, meaning the Friends of Homer concentrates on one non-uniform day a year. 'Our fancy dress Hallowe’en fundraiser is always a big success,' says treasurer Rebecca Swann. 'We love to see all the children participate, so we encourage any kind of costume – shop-bought, homemade, spooky or not!'
Be aware of clothing guidelines in place for safety reasons, such as wearing sensible shoes and stud earrings. Clothing should still be appropriate to the school environment and conducive to pupils' learning, so be clear about what's acceptable.
Make it clear your day is optional. Not all pupils want to show off the clothes they wear outside school. Parents of neurodiverse children say the break from routine can lead to significant unease for their child, sometimes requiring several days of preparation. A 'Make the Rules Day' can help overcome concerns about what to wear by giving pupils other options. Create a list of 'rules' such as 'you must not have crazy hair' and 'you must not drink squash' and request a donation per 'rule' broken. This way, children can participate in as many or as few (including none) as they wish.
'Our priority is making sure all the children feel comfortable taking part,' says Amanda Sadler, PTA secretary at Manor Field Primary School, Burgess Hill. 'We offer suggestions and ideas to help make it as effortless as possible for the children and their families.'
What to ask for
Keep it reasonable – some families will have two or three children at the school. Amounts such as 50p or £1 are typical, but a bucket collection will often raise more. Gift Aid can be claimed on these donations if you're registered with the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS) without any need to collect parents' details. Offering online payment options for those who don't carry cash will help maximise funds.
Alternatively, request a prize for a forthcoming fair or raffle: full, unopened bottles, chocolates or toiletries are good options and may be preferred by parents feeling the financial squeeze.
Use all your channels to make sure every family receives the information, even those without access to the internet. Mum-of-two Debi Coote tells us: 'Good communication and last-minute reminders from the PTA are key; no one wants to be the parent who forgets and sends their child in uniform.'
Five fun alternatives to non-uniform days
- Mad hair day
- Fancy hat day
- Wear your clothes backwards day
- Pyjama day
- Colourful dress day