SDLP Newry & Armagh MLA Justin McNulty has said the spiralling costs of school uniforms to parents across the North must be addressed.
He was speaking after the Assembly’s Education Committee received a briefing on the huge difference in support available to parents in Britain compared with the North.
A Department of Education review into the issue is currently underway.
Newry & Armagh MLA Mr McNulty said:
“I was stunned to learn that families in Britain receive can receive over £100 more per child through a school uniform grant when compared with those in the North. This is completely unfair and raises serious questions about why the Department of Education has not offered more support to parents in recent years, with the costs of uniforms and sports kits rising all the time.
“We have this debate every August and September when children get ready to return to school and nothing is ever done about it. To purchase a uniform for one child can cost well over £100 and for families that have multiple children this can be a huge strain, especially alongside all the other associated back to school costs. A recent survey by Parentkind found that 68% of parents are very concerned about the cost of school uniforms. I know that there are families in my own constituency who have been forced to access Credit Union loans in order to afford their children’s uniforms and back to school costs – that’s completely unacceptable and it puts parents and children under huge duress. The pressure caused by this issue has been highlighted in recent years with charities collecting uniforms and giving them out to those in need. It’s disgraceful that the situation has been allowed to get to this stage.
“I welcome the review currently taking place, but it must address the key issues – the cost of uniforms, the lack of support available and the lack of consultation with parents. A small rise in the uniform grant will be an insult to parents here who are struggling, particularly in light of spiralling energy and living costs, as well as cuts to welfare. This issue has run on far too long – DUP Minister McIlveen and her predecessors at the Department of Education all have serious questions to answer. The ridiculous cost of school uniforms and PE kits should not have to be a consideration for parents trying to get the best education for their child.”