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Proposed cuts to school uniform grant halted

A fund to help lower income families purchase school uniforms is to remain

PROPOSED cuts to the school uniform grant in Northern Ireland will not go ahead, it has been confirmed.

In an apparent u-turn the Department of Education said funding given to low income families to help pay for school uniforms "will remain" at the same levels as last year.

It said it had been able to make the move following an announcement by the Secretary of State James Brokenshire last week of extra money for education and health.

There had been widespread anger earlier this month when plans for a reduction in the clothing allowance were announced.

The Department of Education had instructed the Education Authority (EA) to reduce the cost of the scheme by £3m, saying it was facing major financial pressures.

In a statement last night, a spokesman for the department said the clothing allowance for the coming year would remain.

"Following the secretary of state's written statement last week on Northern Ireland departments' budget allocations, the department has been able to finalise decisions on budget allocations across a range of programmes including deciding to maintain funding for the uniform allowance at current rates," it said.

Almost 100,000 pupils in Northern Ireland received a grant to help them buy their uniforms during the last school year. The amount of help ranges from £35.75 for a primary school child to £56 for a post-primary pupil over the age of 15.

Northern Ireland's biggest teaching union, the NASUWT, welcomed the decision but highlighted the issue of uniform cost.

"We call on all schools to ensure that they are doing all that they can to reduce the cost that parents have to pay," a spokesman said.

"Expensive uniforms, PE equipment and the compulsory purchase of laptops and ipads are acting as a barrier to children and young people's participation in activities and educational opportunities."

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