Parents prefer to buy branded uniforms, claims schools boss
Parents prefer branded uniforms to cheaper generic clothes because they last longer, the schools' management president claims.
Education Minister Richard Bruton's new guidelines on uniform and book costs were also branded a "fig leaf" to cover up inadequate funding for schools.
But Fr Paul Connell also said that the uniforms proposal would hit Irish suppliers - family-owned companies who were all struggling to make a living.
Fr Connell is president of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents 380 second-level schools, mainly those traditionally run by the religious, and is also principal of St Finian's College, Mullingar, Co Westmeath. Mr Bruton recently announced that schools would have to adhere to new guidelines encouraging generic uniforms, with sewn-on crests, book rental schemes and reusable workbooks - or face a reduced State grant for daily running costs.
Speaking directly to Mr Bruton at the JMB conference, Fr Connell said: "Is this how we keep the recovery going? When these Irish companies close and Irish people lose their jobs, who will take responsibility?"
He said that twice in recent years it had polled parents on the uniform issue and the overwhelming response was that they wanted branded uniforms because they last longer. He said an inclusive crest added €1 to €2 to the cost.
Fr Connell was also critical of the book-rental scheme proposal. About one-third of second-level schools don't have a scheme. He questioned its feasibility and asked who would administer it when there wasn't enough middle-management posts. He asked where would schools get €80,000 seed money to set one up.
"Minister, if you want to reduce costs for parents, then fund our schools properly - don't pretend that this initiative is anything but a fig leaf."
Mr Bruton replied that it had to be conscious of surveys showing some parents were under pressure on school costs.
He later said it was reconsidering easing a proposed ban on workbooks that cannot be reused.