The Minister today (Tuesday) announced that he will publish a circular to be adopted by schools to reduce the cost of school uniforms and other costs. The Minister believes that we have to put a greater emphasis on reducing the cost of school uniforms and other costs. The circular will be published in the coming days.
This announcement is part of a suite of measures taken by Minister Bruton to take greater account of the needs of parents and students in the school system, including the School Admissions Bill which will reform information and procedures around the process of school enrolment, and the commencement of Fitness to Teach, which now allows a complaint to be made about a registered teacher to the Teaching Council for the first time.
The Minister will also introduce a requirement for every school to develop a Parent and Student Charter, which will ensure that the interaction between students, parents and schools, is always done in an open and progressive way.
Following the implementation of the circular, school authorities will be required to adopt the following principles of cost-effective practice which will put a greater emphasis on reducing the cost of school uniforms and other costs:
All elements of a school uniform should be purchasable from various stores;
- Only “iron on” or “sew on” crests should be used
- Wherever possible, generic rather than branded items should be specified (e.g. uniform, clothing, IT tablets, sports equipment etc.)
- Provide parents with a list of all required items and indicate the likely costs of these required items at best value stores
- Provide a book rental scheme
- Ban the use of workbooks which cannot be reused
- Where an exclusive supply arrangement applies, it should be tendered for regularly.
- The Board of Management in each school will have to review the cost of items which they require parents to purchase and to make this information available to the school community.
Schools will consult with parents on their views and ask for suggestions on cost reduction initiatives. Parents will be asked for their views about school uniform costs, and other costs, through a questionnaire. Online Surveys, such as Survey Monkey, can be used by schools to quickly survey the views of parents, without any significant administrative overhead to the school.
The Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe, commits to restoring capitation payments to schools, as resources permit.Schools that have not adhered with the principles of cost-effective practice will receive a smaller increase in capitation. This is reinforced in this Circular.
The Minister is also introducing a requirement on every school to consult with parents and students regularly, and publish and operate a Parent and Student Charter. Some of the issues which schools will be required to deal with under the charter include:
- Consult students and parents regularly in relation to school costs and work to avoid costs acting as a barrier
- Publish a school financial statement which would include information on how any voluntary contributions are used
The Bill to provide for a Parent and Student Charter is undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny. It will be published as soon as possible. Under the draft law, the Minister will be given the power to direct a school to comply with national guidelines on a Parent and Student Charter. This power will ensure that if schools are failing to operate a Charter effectively including in relation to costs, the Minister can give a direction to schools requiring compliance with the published guidelines.
This circular will come into force once it has been published in the coming days. Where a school have already made arrangements for the next academic year, the Circular can be implemented from September 2017 onwards.
Speaking at the I.N.T.O. Conference in Belfast, Minister Bruton said:
“My ambition is to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade.
“To deliver on my ambition to be the best we have to improve information and complaint procedures for parents and students, particularly in relation to costs. The measures I am announcing today will give parents a strong voice in ensuring costs are always kept to a minimum.
“Schools have to do everything possible to keep costs down for parents, including the use of generic items, sew on or iron on crests, and making sure that various elements of the uniform can be purchased in multiple stores. In the Action Plan for Education I have committed to the restoration of capitation payments. In restoring capitation payments, where schools have introduced these cost effective principles, they will receive a premium capitation payment.
“I believe that full transparency in relation to the use of any voluntary contributions is important information for parents to have. The Parent and Student Charter will require every school to set out a financial statement, which will include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.
“Today’s announcement is part of a suite of measures I am introducing, including the School Admissions Bill which will reform information and procedures around the process of school enrolment, and the commencement of Fitness to Teach, which will allow a complaint to be made about a registered teacher to the Teaching Council for the first time.”