PARENTS have vented their anger and frustration at the price they have to pay to send their children to school.
Following a debate on the issue on The Nolan Show last week many local parents contacted the Leader outraged that both Banbridge Academy and Banbridge High School had seemingly refused to explain or comment on the price of clothing required for children wishing to attend the schools.
One former Banbridge Academy pupil, whose children now attend the school, said that not giving an explanation indicates they “don’t want to listen to parents” on the subject.
When contacted by the Leader on the subject Banbridge High School said they are open to and welcome feedback from parents.
Principal Andrew Bell said, “We certainly value comments on our sports PE uniform and will take these into consideration in future planning.”
Although the Leader contacted Banbridge Academy no response on the issue was given.
Guidance issued by the Department of Education states that schools should consider costs when it comes to uniforms.
The document states: “Schools should ensure that their school uniform policy is fair and reasonable, in practical and financial terms.”
Some parents quoted prices over £100, and said a sports kit - which in some instances includes both indoor shoes and outdoor shoes - is sometimes more expensive than a uniform.
Another mother said the list of things each child requires has become longer, including different pairs of trainers, a branded tracksuit and hoodie and equipment for sports like hockey.
“Banbridge Academy sports gear is a ridiculous price,” said the mum. “And as well as that, we have to get them kitted out in uniform and school shoes as well.”
St Patrick’s College PE kit was also criticised, with the mother of a boy who attends the school saying the £90 price tag is just unaffordable.
A number of local shops were also the subject of much anger from parents, who said there is not enough competition, meaning prices are higher than in other nearby towns.
“It’s disgraceful,” said the mother.
Another mother said sending two daughters to New Bridge Integrated College cost her £600 “as they both needed everything”.
When contacted by the Leader St Patrick’s College did not respond and a spokesperson for New Bridge College said they would respond at a later date.
Some primary schools were criticised also - although it is not legally compulsory to wear a uniform.
One mother said the colour of her son’s uniform at Edenderry PS makes it more difficult to buy cheaper alternatives.
Principal Stephen Wilson said parents are free to avail of items from a range of stores, and added that he was not aware of any complaints to date.
Mr Wilson said, “There have been no complaints from parents on the issue of cost of school uniform and most seem to appreciate the fact that a uniform looks smart, identifies the school and is an ‘equaliser’ of children, no matter what their background.”
A number of other local schools, including Fair Hill PS, Bridge PS and St Colman’s Bann in Laurencetown, responded to the Leader’s queries by saying that they are aware of the strains on household economies at the minute.
Teresa Devlin of Bridge PS said, “We are very aware of the financial hardship many of our families are facing at the moment and we encourage parents to apply for free school meals and uniform grants.”
John Monaghan of St Colman’s Bann said, “We encourage parents to buy as cheaply as possible.”
UPDATE: In a statement to the Leader on Monday night Banbridge Academy principal Raymond Pollock said: “We review our uniform policy regularly but to date no parents have contacted me about their concerns. I am very happy to discuss any such matters directly with parents but don’t really think that doing it via the media, broadcast or print is the appropriate means to sort out the matter in the first instance.”