Belfast Telegraph

Parents blast 'crazy' PE kit revamp at Northern Ireland school

By Claire McNeilly

Furious parents of pupils at a school that has changed its PE kit have hit out at the distance they have to travel to buy the new sportswear - and its exorbitant cost.

Lurgan Junior High School recently decided to revamp the Year 8 PE uniform - which must be worn during sports lessons - and give sole stockist rights to Donaghy's in Banbridge.

Previously, the kit was available for purchase locally from retailers in Lurgan, where parents can continue to buy the other items of the school uniform required for their children.

Several parents have also voiced their anger at having to go to two shops in two different towns 10 miles apart to get their kids fully kitted out for school.

They have also slammed the switch to a designer label and have complained that the new supplier doesn't always have enough items in stock to meet requirements after they've gone out of their way to get there.

A spokeswoman for Lurgan Junior High School said there was no-one available to respond to our request for comment.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Lurgan father-of-five Tom Mitchell (44), whose 11-year-old son Dean is starting Year 8 in September, said he was "raging at the crazy set-up".

"It's completely ridiculous," he said. "Until now we could buy the whole school uniform locally, in either SD Kells or Maxwells of Lurgan, but we were just told recently that we now have to go to Banbridge for the PE clothes.

"Before the school switched supplier, the PE top was £11, the rugby shirt was £18, the shorts were £11 and the socks were about £6. But now it's getting completely out of hand.

"They have to have an indoor and an outdoor kit.

"The socks are £9, shorts are £16, the T-shirts are £19 and the rugby shirt is £19."

Mr Mitchell, who also has a daughter, Serena (13), going into Year 10 at the school, said it was "the hassle of having to go to two different shops" that bothered him.

"There has been no consultation. It's been a case of like it or lump it," the salesman said.

"We're a working couple but this is still a huge financial burden. Then there's the nightmare of having to travel an extra 10 miles to Banbridge and when you get there, there mightn't even be enough items in stock."

Mr Mitchell's wife Louise (39) added: "This is my third son at Lurgan Junior High so I was hoping to pass down some of the older kits but obviously we can't do that now; we have to buy new clothes."

Sarah Todd (37), a senior after-school assistant from Derrytrasna, made the hour-and-a-half round trip to Donaghy's, only to find she'd been given the wrong clothing.

"When I started sewing name badges onto the kit at home I noticed I'd been given the wrong school shorts so I had to go back to Banbridge," she said.

"It cost me £80 for a pair of shorts, two T-shirts and a pair of socks, which is ridiculously expensive. I haven't bought the jumper or tracksuit bottoms yet because I just couldn't afford it.

"I had to buy two T-shirts -one for inside and one for outside - which is a joke, as they're both practically the same, apart from a small difference in the neckline and down the arm.

"I don't understand why SD Kells in Lurgan can't supply the PE kit when they're supplying the blazers and other clothing. Why do we have to run to Banbridge for a PE kit? It doesn't make sense to me."

A working mother of one, who asked not to be named, said she had already spent £99 on a PE kit for her son. "I couldn't even buy an extra pair of socks because they didn't have any in stock," she said.

"Now I'm worried that he'll lose one of them because that means I'll have to drive to a shop 10 miles away for new ones, assuming they've got them in."

Another mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "It's a disgrace that parents from a Lurgan school can't purchase their PE kit in their local town."

She added: "And whoever thought of changing the PE kit to an expensive designer label were not thinking of families like mine who just can't afford it."

Anne McVeigh, a manager at Donaghy's, said the shop has always stocked the Lurgan Junior High PE kit.

"The school asked us to supply the PE kit. We do other schools in the area," she said.

"We have stocked hoodies and tracksuit bottoms before. This is the first year they have asked us to expand our range. If an item isn't available in stock we are happy to post it out to customers free of charge. To date we haven't had any complaints."

The cost to one mother of a pair of shorts, two T-shirts and socks

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