Sunday 23 October 2016

'I can't force schools to reduce the cost of their uniforms' - minister

Richard Bruton TD Picture: Collins Dublin
Richard Bruton TD Picture: Collins Dublin

Education Minister Richard Bruton has said he will not intervene to force schools to allow children wear cheaper, non-crested uniforms.

The cost of uniforms has become a major issue for many parents with the most recent Credit Union study on the issue putting the average price of primary school clothing for a year at €145.

This rises to €234 for secondary school students.

Many schools now allow parents to purchase uniforms from cheaper chain stores rather than insist on using a specific brand or crest.

However, Mr Bruton said it was every school's right to decide their own policy on the issue.

"We have very plainly said to schools that we want to keep costs down," he said.

"I know many cases where schools are really operating on a cost-effective basis and offer children and parents a very cost-effective place. I hope that practice will become more widespread."


Asked why he doesn't enact laws to force cheaper uniforms, he said: "You have to leave it to local level."

The minister added that a new Parents' Charter is being compiled by his department and it will "set out the guidelines for each school on how they should approach issues such as this".

"Each school has to make its own decision, but schools will, under that charter, have to consult with parents," he said.

Mr Bruton made the comments as he launched new legislation which will allow for 'Fitness to Teach' hearings.

Under the new rules, teachers could find themselves facing a committee on a number of grounds, including professional misconduct, poor professional performance, convictions and being medically unfit to teach.

Mr Bruton said that there will be "a presumption" that cases will be held in public unless there are specific reasons why it shouldn't, such as the involvement of a child.

"I think we can have confidence. The Teaching Council has put together a register and a code of conduct.


"It's reputation is on the line. It needs to ensure the standards it has set are observed by all the professions," he said.

Director of the Teaching Council, Tomas O Ruairc, said professional standards in the classroom affect the lives of every single person.

He said it is "vital that a formal mechanism exists to allow for the investigation of complaints".

"The Fitness to Teach complaints process, therefore, is about improving teaching, not punishing teachers," he said.

If a teacher is found guilty of misconduct, the Teaching Council will have a number of options, ranging from a written admonishment to being removed from the register.

An unregistered teacher is unable to teach in a position funded by the Department of Education.

There are also options to suspend teachers for a set period of time or have certain restrictions placed on their work.

Anybody who has information that a teacher is performing below the expected standard can make a complaint.

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