Sinn Fein spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called for urgent action to cut school uniform costs.
The party has recently published the Education (Affordable School Uniforms) Bill 2022, which was introduced in the Dáil last week by Teachta Ó Laoghaire and co-sponsor Sorca Clarke TD.
The Bill would ensure school uniform costs are cut, to deliver a much-needed break from spiralling costs for families hit by the cost of living crisis.
Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“School uniform costs are far too high and are putting huge pressure on families’ finances. Families are already being hit by the cost of living crisis, as prices are spiralling and many simply cannot afford these back-to-school costs which can reach thousands of Euro.
“Uniforms are one of the biggest costs for families sending their child or children back to school. Parents often spend several hundred euro on uniforms, tracksuits, shoes and other items of clothing. Many will be worrying about how they will manage to pay that this year.
“While many schools make an enormous effort to bring down costs, there are still parents who really struggle to afford all the items on the list provided to them. The Minister for Education has recently pointed to the Department’s circular on this policy. However, this doesn’t address the pressures families are under as this circular is not compulsory, and is just guidance for schools.
“Sinn Féin’s Bill would place an obligation on all schools to implement an Affordable School Uniform Policy, to tackle the soaring costs of uniforms for families.
“This policy would state clearly whether each item on the uniform list is optional or required, so that parents are not purchasing items unnecessarily. It would ensure that parents can source all elements of the school uniform from a number of retailers so that parents can make an informed, value-for-money choice. This would make a real difference in cutting costs for families and ensuring they get a much-needed break from out of control costs.
“Families have contacted us who are concerned that their child will miss out on extra-curricular activities such as sports and music groups, because they cannot afford to purchase all of the additional uniform items required. This is totally unacceptable.
“Our Bill would place an obligation on schools to ensure that no pupil is discouraged from participating in school activities due to the expense of these additional uniform items, through keeping any additional items to a minimum.”
Teachta Clarke said:
“Back to school costs are far too high and families are struggling to afford them. We must cut back to school costs so that families get a break from these financial pressures urgently.
“It is often frustrating for families who have a number of children attending the same school, when changes to the uniform policy means that items can’t be passed down to younger siblings.
“Our Bill places an obligation on schools to avoid frequent changes to uniform requirements, to allow uniform items to be re-used and passed down. It also obliges schools to facilitate the acquisition of second-hand uniforms, through second-hand uniform sales and swap shops.
“Aside from the lower costs for families, this would also have obvious environmental benefits.
“Crucially, the Bill requires that schools take a mindful and considerate approach to enforcing their uniform rules, where the reason suspected for non-compliance is financial hardship.
“The Government must ensure that the significant costs of uniforms are tackled. Sinn Féin have introduced this Bill in the Dáil and will continue to pursue its passage as a priority. I am urging all TDs to back our Bill and ensure it passes through the Dáil as soon as possible so that it can begin making a real difference to families’ finances straight away. It’s time to tackle back to school costs.”