Mum ‘could have cried’ over school uniform bill – as support grant doesn’t cover it

A distraught mum has shared how she “could have cried” when she was handed her daughter’s school uniform bill.

The single parent was forced to spend hundreds ahead of her daughter’s first year at secondary school, and claims her support grant did not “come close to covering half of the costs “.

Following her experience, the mum is calling for more support to help struggling families, as Belfast Live reports.

“With all of the other expenses going up at the minute I just don’t know how some families will be able to cope,” she said.

The mum-of-two was shopping for her children when she became upset.

While one child’s primary uniform was a manageable price, the cost of her older child’s secondary uniform left her stunned.

She explained: “I have recently bought my daughter her first uniform for secondary school and before the price of the PE kit is included it is already costing me more than £200. I honestly could have cried when I received the bill and saw the price.

“While it is easier to get uniforms for my other daughter in primary school, as it is easier to get items in Tesco and M&S for them when it comes to certain items for secondary schools it feels like they have you over a barrel and the £76 grant doesn’t come close to covering half of the costs.”

The mum added that she cannot understand why the support available for those living in England or Scotland is almost double what is available to families in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Education has said that it is currently undertaking a review of the Free School Meals and Uniform Grant and the minister has agreed to uplift the grant by 20% for the 2022/23 year.

A Department of Education spokesperson said: “The Department is undertaking a Review of Free School Meals and Uniform Grant eligibility criteria and the Minister agreed, as an interim measure, to uplift the current rate of Uniform Grant by 20% for 22/23 year, as a contribution to the actual costs of uniforms pending the outcome of the review.

“The review is considering a number of options for free school meals and uniform grants, including the removal/adjustment to current thresholds for Universal Credit /Working Tax Credit as well as the potential to legislate on uniform policy. The review is expected to conclude in early 2023.

“The Minister is very aware of the financial pressures on families at this time and has made it clear to schools that every effort should be made to ensure school uniforms are as affordable as possible, in line with the department’s guidance on this issue.”

A spokesperson for the Education Authority said: “The rates of Uniform Allowance for the 2022/23 school year have increased by 20% compared to the 2021/22 year.

“The day-to-day management of schools, including school uniform policy, is a matter for school Principals, subject to any directions that might be given by the Board of Governors.

“Guidance is given to schools by DE to ensure that their school uniform policy is fair and reasonable, in practical and financial terms.”