The increasing cost of school uniforms is yet another aspect of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis hitting working-class households in the 6 counties, with prices skyrocketing in recent years. On average a standard uniform costs the following:
Approximate Total: £122
All of these costs are before taking items such as shirts and shoes into account. A family with multiple children could very realistically face a bill of over £300. That is also assuming that only one uniform is bought. Should this be the case, it would have to be washed more regularly, thereby increasing other utility costs (electricity, heat, etc.)
On top of the regular uniform prices, parents also have to fork out for PE kits, many schools now require self-branded kits which are rarely worn outside of school. A stigma can develop if parents cannot afford these kits.
While there are currently uniform grants available in the 6 counties, many feel these grants do not go far enough. The current grant in the six counties stands at £76, nearly half of what families in England and Scotland.
The Department of Education in Stormont is undertaking a review of the free school meals and uniform grant eligibility criteria. No decision will be made until early 2023, and the implementation of any decisions is pursuant on the existence of a functioning Executive.
Many community groups have set up uniform swap shops across the 6 counties, in an effort to alleviate the burden on working-class families.
With no end in sight to the current crisis, and with the worst yet to come, any decision made by the Department of Education will likely become obsolete. A uniform price cap seems to be the only measure to curb this aspect of financial suffering.