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Review into family grants for new school uniforms

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SUPPORT: Michelle McIlveen

SUPPORT: Michelle McIlveen

SUPPORT: Michelle McIlveen

School uniform costs are being given a dressing down by education chiefs.

A review of the current eligibility for cash help towards uniforms is now underway under new Education Minister Michelle McIlveen.

But its conclusion may not come in time for the next term in September, with parents already splashing out for the costly coats, shirts, blouses, and so on.

At present post-primary pupils can avail of grants if they are eligible of between £51-£56.

But the We Deserve Better campaign group warned there could be a difference totalling £200 between schools when the cost of PE kits is taken into account.

Dylan Quinn, founder member of the group set up to protest at the absence of Stormont during the three-year gap of devolution, said school boards of governors should show more flexibility in the rules they set on uniforms.

School uniform policies are a matter for individual schools but three years ago the department warned all schools they must attempt to keep uniform costs to a minimum.

Guidance issued by the department says schools should ensure items are available “off the peg” from a number of retail outlets.

This is to ensure “that the school uniform does not become a barrier for children from low income families attending the school.”

Across all schools including primaries the Education Authority administers a system of school uniform grants to support low income families — but it is not intended to cover the full costs.

A new written Assembly answer added: “There is already work underway in the department on a review of the uniform grant eligibility criteria.

“The purpose of this is to ensure that uniform grants are available to support the most vulnerable children in our society and the work will consider the current rates of uniform grants.”

DUP MLA Joanne Bunting, who tabled the question, and Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, chair of the Assembly education committee, were not immediately available for comment.


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