Sandra Murray has managed to kit out her daughters — Shannon goes into third class next week and Caitlin starts senior infants — for the coming year at Our Lady of Mercy primary school in the city for less than €120.
But a friend with similar-aged girls must pay more than that for each of them because of different policies at their school.
“The only thing that is compulsory for us is the school jumper and school tie, which come to around €33 each.
“After that, they are allowed to wear any navy skirt or pinafore, white blouse and any navy tracksuit for their PE days twice a week,” said Sandra.
“I can get two skirts for each of them with a tenner, two white shirts for Shannon for €8 and €6 for Caitlin, and three polo shirts for each of them for just over €10. We can buy a school tracksuit for €38 but it is optional, so I can get a navy tracksuit ends for €4 and a top for €5 for each of them,” she said.
In contrast, she said her friend — a single parent — is fuming that she must pay €38 for a tracksuit with no choice to buy any other. She also has to buy a skirt or pinafore chosen by the school which costs €45 for each girl and a jumper for €35, all coming to €118 for each girl before any shirts or blouses are bought.
School principal Maria Doyle said the more relaxed approach at Our Lady of Mercy, which has around 300 girls on the roll book, relates to its status as a disadvantaged school and the board of management is mindful in all its policies that some families are not as well off as others.
“We just give them a list of what’s needed and it’s up to them where they get the various items. Our parents’ association are great, they ran a savings scheme last year which meant families could put in, let’s say a €5 a week, and they had a lump sum then in the summer to help with the cost of coming back to school,” Ms Doyle said.
The school also has a scheme dating back for many years that allows parents return uniforms in good condition that they no longer need.
They are set aside to help out when children have spills at lunchtime or if their family is having financial difficulty to replace items that are worn or too small.
“Parents can ask us if something they need is available, and we just tell them to have a look in ‘the press’ as we call it.
“Not everybody avails of it, nobody wants to come with their hands out,” said Ms Doyle.
“Some girls might come back in the same skirt or jumper as before the summer but they are not long again growing out of them, particularly the older girls. By the end of October, the cupboard will be empty again and we’d probably go through a few dozen full sets of uniform every year,” she said.