Quinn goes to top of class for move to cut uniform bill
EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has received top marks from parent and teacher groups for tackling the spiralling cost of school uniforms.
Mothers and fathers will soon be asked to vote on the issue and complete a questionnaire currently being drawn up.
The cost of uniforms has long been a bone of contention, with many schools using specified suppliers to provide crested clothing that is more expensive than buying from a chain store.
Many parents have argued the crests should be available as an item that can be sewn or ironed on to cheaper clothes available in high street shops.
It is hoped that the issue will now be addressed in time for children starting or returning to school next September.
Under the plan, parents will be asked if they want the clothing to be available from large retail chains and if they want it with or without a school crest.
Minister Quinn said empowering parents in this manner was the most effective way to tackle back-to-school costs.
His department is also working on developing a Parents Charter that will further strengthen the position of mothers and fathers in the system.
Mr Quinn said: "Specifically, I want all schools that operate a uniform policy to ballot parents before deciding on the policy to be adopted for the 2014/15 school year.
"I have consistently said that schools should listen to parents on this matter since it is parents who incur the costs arising from the decisions schools make."
Charity Barnardo's described the move as "good news for parents' pockets".
Barnardo's CEO Fergus Finlay said: "We welcome that all parents will be encouraged to give their views on reforming the school uniform.
"This could lead to practical suggestions such as reducing the number of items with crests or allowing the uniform to be bought in high street stores."
Barnardo's 2013 School Costs survey found parents spend, on average, €95 on uniforms for a senior infant pupil, €120 for a fourth class pupil and more than €250 for a first year pupil.
Mr Finlay added: "Parents expressed anger at being unable to buy uniforms in high street shops and (being) forced to go to shops charging higher prices."
The move was also supported by the National Parents Council for primary children.
A spokesperson said: "We have been campaigning on this on behalf of parents for the past number of years.
"We believe it is necessary to further strengthen parents' role in their children's education."
And Teachers' Union of Ireland President Gerard Craughwell insisted that school uniforms should be reasonably priced and that the cost should not soar with the addition of the school crest.
The Department of Education will issue the template questionnaire to schools by the end of this month.