Northern Ireland news

School uniform prices 'could be capped' amid rising costs

School uniform prices could be capped amid concerns about soaring costs, a parents' group has said

SCHOOL uniform prices could be capped amid concerns about soaring costs, a parents' group has said.

The Parent Engagement Group (PEG) has called on the Department of Education to set up an independent review of uniforms following complaints of high costs and the use of branded PE kits.

In a discussion paper submitted to the department, the PEG said the executive should introduce legislation to strengthen current uniform guidance to schools.

It said the review group should recommend changes to uniform policy based around "gender, branding, affordability and practicality".

The PEG also said school uniform grants should be reviewed, including the income threshold at which parents can apply for financial help.

Parents in receipt of benefits including income support and Universal Credit can apply for uniform grants.

But the grants only cover a fraction of the cost.

Research by the PEG in August found that parents spend an average of £378 on a post-primary child's uniform and £173 at primary level.

There are particular concerns about schools' use of mandatory branded PE kits, which are much more expensive than generic sportswear.

PEG spokeswoman Naomi McBurney said action must be taken.

"For too long our politicians have spoken out against the issue as parents and young people raise concerns but no substantive action has been taken to date to address the year on year growing uniform lists and branded PE kits," she said.

"By placing an agreed financial cap on schools, and giving the current robust guidance a legislative role, we can achieve change for all families."

The Department of Education has said it is reviewing the school uniform grant.

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