Families in NI can receive around £100 less per child for school uniform grants compared to other parts of UK
FAMILIES in Northern Ireland receive more than £100 less per child for school uniform grants compared to Britain, it has emerged.
Figures revealed by the Department of Education show there is a "huge discrepancy" between the grants in the north and elsewhere.
The department is undertaking a review of free school meals and uniform grant criteria in Northern Ireland. It comes after calls earlier this year from a parents group for prices to be capped amid concerns about soaring costs.
Figures provided by the department reveal that parents in England can claim up to £150 per child, between £125 and £200 in Wales and at least £120 to £150 in Scotland.
But in Northern Ireland, low-income families can receive a grant of £35.75 towards primary school uniform cost and between £73-£78 for post-primary uniform and PE kit.
Appearing before the assembly education committee on Wednesday, Margaret Rose McNaughton from the department said "the contribution to the uniform grant is very small in terms of the actual cost of what the uniform is and that is why we need to address the difference there".
"There is a real discrepancy in our costs and that is something that we are mindful of," she said.
Ms McNaughton said that the education "budgets have been so particularly tight over the last number of years".
"We know that there is a huge discrepancy there and that is what we're hoping to address as part of this review," she said.
"In terms of the amount of a grant it all comes down to the amount of money available."
The Parent Engagement Group has been among the organisations to call for an independent review of uniforms following complaints of high costs and the use of branded PE kits.
It wants to see "bespoke legislation" in Northern Ireland, which would introduce a cap on uniform costs. Its research 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.