Schools forced to cut uniform costs under new measures

Mandatory book rental scheme among plans being introduced to help parents

Minister for Education Richard Bruton: issuing a circular in the coming days requiring the school authorities to adopt “principles of cost-effective practice”. across a range of key area. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Education Richard Bruton: issuing a circular in the coming days requiring the school authorities to adopt “principles of cost-effective practice”. across a range of key area. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Schools will be obliged to reduce the cost of uniforms and introduce book rental schemes in order to ease financial pressures facing parents under new measures.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton is to issue a circular in the coming days requiring the school authorities to adopt “principles of cost-effective practice” across a range of key areas.

Significantly, schools who introduce the new cost-saving measures will receive a “premium capitation payment” when these payments are restored over the coming years.

Among the measures schools will be directed to introduce include:

* Ensuring all elements of a school uniform can be purchased from various stores;

* Mandatory book rental schemes and a ban on workbooks which cannot be reused;

* Only “iron on” or “sew on” crests should be used;

* Use of generic rather than branded items should be specified wherever possible (such as uniforms, clothing, IT tablets, sports equipment, etc);

* Providing parents with a list of all required items and indicating the likely costs of these required items at best value stores;

Review

Despite a system of “free education”, parents face hefty costs for books, uniforms and and voluntary contributions.

The children’s charity Barnardos says much of this is down to the underfunding of the education system and Government spending cuts.

As a result, many campaigners are likely to view the latest measure to cut costs for parents, in the absence of additional funding, with some skepticism.

Mr Bruton, however, says he is committed to the restoration of capitation payments for schools which have been cut in recent years.

“In restoring capitation payments, where schools have introduced these cost-effective principles, they will receive a premium capitation payment,” he said.

“I believe that full transparency in relation to the use of any voluntary contributions is important information for parents to have.”

Mr Bruton said school boards of management will have to review the cost of items which they require parents to purchase and to make this information available to the school community.

The circular will come into force once it has been published in the coming days.

If a school has already made arrangements for the current academic year, the circular can be implemented from September 2017 onwards, he said.

Mr Bruton said the measures are aimed at giving parents a “strong voice” in ensuring costs are always kept to a minimum.

“Schools have to do everything possible to keep costs down for parents, including the use of generic items, sew-on or iron-on crests, and making sure that various elements of the uniform can be purchased in multiple stores,” he said.

In addition, the Minister highlighted a parent and student charter which he hopes to introduce to schools under separate legislation.

This, he said, will require every school to set out a financial statement, which will include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.