Aontú Rep for East Derry and Education Spokesperson, Gemma Brolly urges Ministers to recognise that the scandalous school Uniform Costs exceed considerably the financial assistance available.
Rep. Brolly states: “The average Post-Primary School Uniform costs a minimum of £175, not including footwear, a coat, a bag or stationery, yet the current School Uniform grant offers a maximum of £73. This is hugely disproportionate, particularly in comparison with England(up to £150) Scotland(£150) and Wales(£200) and completely lacking in common sense. The Department base eligibility for the Uniform grant similarly on that of school meals, the sense exists here that to ensure a child has full access to a school dinner you must offer FULL financial assistance of the dinner! It is therefore beyond comprehension, how assistance amounting to less than half of the price of a school uniform is fair and acceptable.”
“NICCY A Free Education? The cost of education in Northern Ireland” highlighted these very same issues in October 2017, with the Commissioner for Children and Young People stating the current arrangement “further exacerbates inequalities in education,” no parent should ever have to base or even factor the cost of uniform into the Post-Primary School decision for their child. The NICCY report also recommends that schools are adequately funded solely through public expenditure and should not rely on parents and guardians to pay for the shortfall in the costs of their children’s education. Unfortunately this is not the case-so may schools are so underfunded, they have no option but to appeal to parents for contributions to various projects, this affects all parents, those receiving benefits and those not. Aontú therefore demand an urgent review of the eligibility criteria – Just because someone is not entitled to school meals does not mean they are not struggling to meet School Uniform costs.”
“The Executive must not only review the amount provided through Uniform grants, but must legislate that ALL schools take a common sense approach to their school uniform policy, allowing purchases of items to made at affordable prices. Schools must consult with parents regularly, in order to facilitate their prospective and existing pupils fairly and justly. The fact a report was published in 2017 demanding attention to the very same concerns, and yet we are no further forward almost four years later is both worrying and frustrating. Aontú demand action now to ensure parents do not find themselves in the same difficult situation approaching the next school year.”