Increased school uniform costs are leaving many low-income families struggling to cope and forced to cut back on food and other essential items.
The back-to-school bill can push families further into debt with some schools requiring a blazer, shirt, tie, trousers or skirt and branded sportswear for PE lessons which run into hundreds of pounds for parents with more than one child.
East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden has said legislating on a maximum cost for school uniforms would ease the financial burden on families.
“Rising school uniform prices is a significant issue in Northern Ireland, particularly for families with multiple children in different schools,” she said.
“A full uniform, including PE kits, and with numerous sets for use throughout the week means paying for them can run into hundreds of pounds.
“Many schools now require specially designed and branded PE kits – given these are rarely seen outside the school it seems like an unnecessary demand on parents. Stigma can be created if parents cannot afford complete kits, and pupils may avoid participating in school teams as a result.
“Many schools hold second hand uniform sales, but this is not a consistent or sustainable way to deal with the issue of uniform costs. Creating a ceiling price for uniforms would bring peace of mind to parents and ensure every child can attend school in the prescribed uniform.
“Legislation has already been passed for England on this. Doing the same for Northern Ireland would uphold the main reason for having uniforms in the first place – to ensure all children can attend school as equals and in a way that does not compound any financial hardship being experienced by families.”