The Department of Education wants schools to gather the views of parents on the issue of school uniforms with a view to giving them more of a say on school policies in the area.

The department is to issue a template questionnaire to all schools in coming weeks.

Schools will be expected to ballot parents by the end of February.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said he is empowering parents to be involved in uniform policy decision-making.

The minister said the voice of parents does not seem to have been heard loudly enough in the past even though they bear the burden of school uniform costs.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Quinn said he would like the ballot to be completed by autumn 2014.

"I'm not proposing that school uniform policies should be changed to the point that additional costs would be added.

"This is really listening to parents and representatives of parents such as Barnados and St Vincent de Paul who have brought to my attention costs over which parents feel they have no control and are in many cases excessive."

Parents are expected to be asked whether they want a school uniform or not, and whether the uniform should be available in large, retail chain stores.

The Irish Primary Principals' Network said having a monopoly on school uniforms is not a good idea and that while a school crest is important "it does not have to be on the school uniform for it to be understood."

The representative body for Ireland's 16 Education and Training boards, the ETBI, said its schools will ballot parents for their view on the issue.

It said buying uniforms represents a significant annual expense for parents and engagement on the matter will "hopefully serve to empower parents" in relation to this.

Separately, asked about the ongoing dispute with ASTI teachers, Minister Quinn said there had been discussions and dialogue and he was hoping that progress could be made.

He said he was hopeful the issue would be resolved by the new year.