Families in Northern Ireland struggling to afford cost of school uniforms


Many families in Northern Ireland are struggling to afford the cost of school uniforms in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

Recent research from the the Women’s Regional Consortium and Ulster University showed that “as food prices continue to rise and without support from the Holiday Hunger Scheme it is hard to contemplate how parents will be able to afford the cost of school uniforms.”

It is likely, said the research (written by Siobhán Harding, Women’s Support Network, Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick, Ulster University; and Dr Alexandra Chapman, Ulster University) that there will be an increase in people using uniform ‘swap shops,’ not necessarily out of choice, but rather out of necessity.

The school uniform grant in Northern Ireland is significantly less than those in other parts of the UK (for example, in NI it is £42.90 per child of primary school age compared to £120 in Scotland).

The authors of the research said: “The school uniform grant needs to be increased to reflect the average cost of a school uniform (including PE kit) which would move it closer in line with other countries in the UK. The grant should also include an allowance for school shoes.”

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People voiced concerns and noted that “rigid and unaffordable school uniform prices further exacerbates inequalities in education between those living in poverty and those who are not”.

One mother (quoted in the research) said “My son needs a new school uniform every day as he has sensory issues and there are a lot of changes. I had to buy all his school uniform, shoes, PE kit, school bag and contents. It was £345 for primary school. I literally broke down in tears because I had to get for my daughter as well and she is in secondary school.”

Another mother said: “My son is starting secondary school in September and I’m scared already. The blazer is £65. He’s 11 but he’s so tall so it’s like an adult size for his clothes and his shoes. The grant for a school uniform doesn’t even go anywhere near the actual cost of a uniform.”

• Full research – www.womensregionalconsortiumni.org.uk/research/