Fife Council to consider raising school uniform grants

Aldi is selling one of the cheapest school uniforms
Aldi is selling one of the cheapest school uniforms

Fife Council had decided to look at raising the level of school uniform grants it pays to families in need in response to the publication of comparisons of the grants paid by local authorities across Scotland.

The local authority was recently criticised by one councillor for failing to raise the amount it gives families struggling to cope with the additional cost of buying school uniforms.

Figures published by the Poverty Truth Commission revealed that Fife’s grant of £55 is lower than the Scottish average and significantly below the ‘actual cost’ of £129.50.

Today Councillor David Ross, one of the co-leaders of Fife Council said: “If schools require pupils to wear school uniforms then it is only right that there should be some assistance to those families who face financial difficulties in meeting these requirements.

“It has been estimated that the cost of outfitting a child for school is around £129. We don’t want some children to be stigmatised or feel less valued at school, because their families can’t afford to pay for school uniforms.”

Fife currently pays a school clothing grant of £55 per child and awarded over 13,000 grants totalling £721,710 in 2016/17.

Cllr Ross added: “The Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, is now suggesting that all councils should pay at least a minimum grant of £70. But our ability to fund education is dependent on our grant from the Scottish Government, so if Mr Swinney wants councils to increase these grants, then it would help if the Scottish Government provided the extra funding needed to local authorities.

“We estimate that it would cost Fife nearly £200,000 to raise the school clothing grant to £70. If we wanted to go further and match the most generous level of grant paid across Scotland then the cost would be nearly £600,000.

“Tackling poverty and promoting equality is one of Fife’s top priorities, but there are choices to be made here. In setting the budget for this year, the previous Labour administration invested £350,000 to support school breakfast clubs and other initiatives to ensure that all children start the day with a decent meal.

“So if we are able to find extra funding to invest in tackling child poverty, we need to think carefully about how best to use this money and whether increasing school clothing grants will be the most effective way of investing it.

“I will make sure that we look seriously at increasing school clothing grants in the preparation of next year’s Council budget, and in the meantime, I will be writing to Mr Swinney to ask if the Scottish Government intends to fund the increase he thinks is necessary.

“I would encourage any family in Fife who thinks they might be eligible for a school clothing grant to contact the Council.”

Applications can be made online at: www.fifedirect.org.uk/topics/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.display&p2sid=2B4FC2A2-EEFE-793D-C67878ACFFB0B251.