School uniform policy should be adapted to suit challenging times

As cash-strapped parents struggle to make ends meet, a Fine Gael Senator has called on schools to show leniency when it comes to the rigorous enforcement of strict uniform codes.

Education spokesperson Fidelma Healy Eames this week said that many parents are struggling to cope with the escalating cost of books, bags, and uniforms. She said that many parents have spoken to her about the cost of the school jacket and tracksuit in particular.

“While a basic uniform is a good way of ensuring that every child is on an even keel, the cost associated with extra uniform items, such as school jackets and tracksuits, are pushing parents to their financial limits. One Galway-city based parent told me this would add an extra €150 onto her bill for the basic uniform. These items very often contain a school crest or emblem, ensuring that they must be purchased in specialist shops at grossly inflated prices. This monopoly-type practice must be brought to an end.

“In the UK schools sell the school crest and the students are allowed sew the crest onto a tracksuit of the correct colour which may be bought in any shop. This would seem like a sensible option and I would call on Irish schools to explore the feasibility of this practice.

“I am calling on Boards of Management that enforce a school uniform policy to revise their policy in these straitened times in light of the financial pressures on parents. Enforcing a code that is impossible for families to maintain could be a cause of embarrassment for a child, driving an unnecessary wedge between him/ her and the school,” she said.

Senator Healy Eames added that under no circumstance should schools use additional items, such as school jackets and tracksuits, as tools to reprimand children whose parents may be hard pressed to meet these costs. She added that cash-strapped parents should be given leave to purchase generic uniforms from high street stores which come at a fraction of the cost of crested garments.

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