Northern Ireland’s Education Minister confirmed this week that a review of the Uniform Grant and free schools is underway to ensure they “are available to support the most vulnerable children in our society”.

Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The review is considering a number of options for uniform grants, including the options for the removal/adjustment to current thresholds for Universal Credit/Working Tax Credit, the current rates of uniform grant as a contribution to the cost of school uniforms as well as the potential to legislate on uniform policy.”

She also confirmed she had agreed an increase of 20% to the existing uniform grant allowances for the forthcoming academic year.

There is no legal requirement for NI school pupils to wear a uniform and school uniform policy is entirely set by each individual school. The Education Department released guidance on the issue in 2018 stating that school uniform policy should be “fair and reasonable in practical and financial terms”.

The Education Minister’s statement was in response to a question by Independent MLA Clare Sugden, asking whether threshold limits would be reviewed to help parents who were struggling but didn’t qualify for the uniform grant.

Ms Sugden welcomed the review, but said further action is needed, including a maximum limit on school uniform prices.

Ms Sugden said: “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.”

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