Quinn says new parent charters will deal with expensive uniforms
Minister does not favour national regulations
Getting ready for school: Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has said he does not favour having specific national regulations in relation to types of uniforms and where they are purchased, saying this could prove impractical.
The Department of Education says it has no plans to cut grants to schools that don’t offer parents the option of cheaper uniforms.
It was commenting on reports that schools would be obliged to give parents the choice of purchasing cheaper uniforms instead of expensive crested jumpers and blazers.
In a statement last night, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said he did not favour having specific national regulations in relation to types of uniforms and where they are purchased, saying this could prove impractical.
The Minister said he is committed instead to the creation of parents’ charters, to strengthen the relationships between parents and schools.
“The cost of school uniforms is one obvious area where there should be shared view,” the statement read, adding: “Such charters will be underpinned by legislation if necessary.”
“A school that listens to the voice of parents will not place requirements on parents in relation to school uniforms against their wishes and will not require that uniforms must be purchased from a specific supplier,” the Minister added.
A discussion paper on a parents charter is being prepared by officials and will be published in the next few months.
The statement was issued after Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore suggested there was a need for accelerated reform in the area.
“The price of school uniforms is very high for families. The kind of practices that you have in some schools where the recommendation that goes out or advice that goes out to parents each year is to secure a uniform usually from one or two named suppliers in some cases they’re very expensive,” said Mr Gilmore, speaking at the Labour Seanad referendum campaign launch.
“I think that there are more economic options that are available to people and I think that it is time that the issue is looked at, that families are able to exercise more economic options than are sometimes available to them,” he added.
Expressing support for reform in the area yesterday, the Competition Authority said each autumn it received complaints from parents relating to school uniforms.
“The most common complaint is about schools allowing one retailer to exclusively supply uniforms. Parents are frustrated that they cannot shop around and feel that they may be charged excessively high prices by the exclusive retailer.”
The authority has made a number of recommendations including, where possible, schools should allow a number of different retailers to supply their school uniform; and not allowing one retailer have a contract for an excessive period of time.
A survey from children’s charity Barnardos found parents of primary school children were paying up to €150 for a crested uniform and up to €250 for secondary school uniforms.
Last month Barnardos Chief Executive Fergus Finlay called on Mr Quinn and his department to end the current “arm’s length” approach and intervene directly to help parents cope with the rising costs of free education.