Education Minister ‘understands the challenges’

The Department of Education has insisted that the Minister Michelle McIlveen is aware of the struggles that many parents are facing when it comes to buying new school uniforms.

It is understood the Minister will seek to establish a statutory basis for ensuring that schools make stheir uniforms more affordable.

A spokesperon for the Department also highlighted that in order to provide immediate additional support to families in this area, the Minister recently approved a 20% uplift in the levels of uniform grants ahead of the 2022-23 academic year.

The spokesperson continued: “The Minister understands the challenges faced by families in relation to the cost of living and the pressures associated with school uniform costs.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th June 2021 - Minister Michelle McIlveen. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

“The Minister has commended the schools that have taken action to reduce costs, but expressed her disappointment at those that have failed to take action in line with the Department’s guidance on this issue.

“The Minister has therefore instructed officials to identify an approach that will seek to ensure, on a statutory basis, that schools are required to make their uniforms more affordable for families.

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“As we work through this process, the views of all interested parties including parents, pupils and schools will play an important role in seeking to reduce the costs of school uniforms for families.”

SInn Fein Vice President, Michelle O’Neill MLA has said there is a need to cut uniform costs.

“We need to cut the cost of school uniforms and PE gear, and Sinn Féin has a plan to do that,” she commented.

“I have been listening to many families in recent weeks, some parents are spending over £200 to get one child ready to return to school.

“That is simply unacceptable, particularly at a time when families are struggling with the rising cost of energy, fuel and food.

“It’s time to form an Executive, and to keep money in the pockets of workers and families by cutting school uniform costs.”

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Meanwhile the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) has called for the creation of a cost-of-living task force to tackle the growing pressures on households and businesses.

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Parents implore schools to ditch expensive brands as school uniform costs soar

NILGA President Cllr Martin Kearney said: “This is a wake up call for national and regional government to find a solution to ensure hoseholds in NI can rightly receive the emergency funding which is being allocated elsewhere.

“In tandem, it is vital that we move forward on those aspects of the Anti-Poverty Strategy which can be advanced in the current political situation.

“NILGA supports the call for a Task Force to be established with a clear focus on removing barriers to collaboration and to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to support those in need.

“This Task Force should be inclusive of all public services and include energy companies as well as the community and voluntary sector.”