Schools forcing families to pay more for uniforms
TENS of thousands of families are facing huge differences in what they pay for children's uniforms ahead of the new school year, an Irish Independent survey has found.
Cash-strapped parents are being forced by four out of every five schools to purchase their children's uniforms in designated shops.
The back-to-school costs soar when primary schools insist on maintaining the same standard of clothing across the board.
The survey, published today, also reveals a major difference in the price of school uniforms sold in supermarkets compared to department stores.
Our study concentrated on two supermarkets -- Dunnes Stores and Tesco; two department stores -- Debenham's and Arnotts; and traditional stores in the west and midlands, sold through www.irishschool wear.com
The main findings include:
•There is up to €18.50 in the price difference of a pair of generic school trousers for a five-year-old boy.
•A five-year-old girl's pinafore is double the price in a traditional shop in the west of Ireland than in Dunnes Stores.
•A plain white polo T-shirt costs €3.50 in Dunnes Stores but this soars above €10 in Arnotts when a school crest is added.
•Traditional shops are unable to compete with supermarket chain Tesco, which is selling school jumpers from €2.50.
When children move on to second-level, the price of school jumpers and blazers particular to specific schools increases markedly.
For example, the tartan school skirt for girls attending Our Lady's Templeogue in Dublin is priced at €72 in Arnotts, while their crested jumper is €45. There is also a specific scarf for €15.
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) last night appealed to school boards of management to allow parents to buy the uniform and school crest separately in a bid to help them save money.
It has published research that shows 80pc of parents of primary school-going children who wear a uniform are forced to buy it from a specific shop -- and this increases to 87pc for secondary school students.
"We are strongly in favour of primary and secondary school boards of management allowing parents to purchase the uniform and school crest separately rather than in a designated uniform shop as this could lead to significant savings and we have raised this matter with the Minister for Education," an NCA spokesperson said.
Decisions on the school uniforms is at the discretion of the individual schools and boards of management.
Uniforms are seen as the biggest expense when it comes to sending children back to school.
Many low-income families, including those on certain social welfare payments, are entitled to the Back-to-School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. Applicants' household income must be below a certain amount per week to apply.
For instance, a couple with two children must be earning less than €593 a week to qualify. A lone parent with one child must be on €410.10 a week or less to get the allowance. The amount paid for each eligible child -- aged from two to 11 years -- is €200.
Parents can apply for the assistance until September 30.