Education Minister Michelle McIlveen has been challenged to produce a plan to tackle back to school costs that are badly impacting some families.
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan was speaking after it was revealed that over a third of parents had been pushed into debt as a result of buying items such as shoes, gym kits and school supplies.
The figures were included in a report from the Irish League of Credit Unions, with some parents forking out more than £1,000 to send a child to a post-primary school.
“The statistics demonstrate the extent of the Executive’s failure to tackle the challenges facing parents, many of whom are being pushed further and further into debt simply to fund basic costs associated with their children’s education,” the West Tyrone MLA said.
“It’s unacceptable that parents across Northern Ireland are forced to spend over £1,000 per child simply to ensure they are properly equipped for going back to school.
"These costs are particularly incredulous this year, when more families will be struggling financially due to Covid-19.
"Parents still have not been given clarity over the upcoming academic year arrangements and so can’t properly plan for their children’s return to school and the costs associated.”
The Department of Education said that while a grant is not in place to cover the entire cost of a school uniform, it is currently reviewing the criteria used to assess eligibility.
It added that the day-to-day management of schools, including uniform policy, is a matter for principals.
“To assist schools in developing their school uniform policies, the Department of Education issued guidance,” it said.
“This guidance advises that schools should ensure that their school uniform policy is fair and reasonable, in practical and financial terms, and that schools should have regard to their duties under relevant equality and other legislation.
“The guidance also recommends that schools consult with parents and pupils when drawing up school uniform policy.”
It added: “There is already work under way in the department to commence a review of the uniform grant eligibility criteria.”