Generic school uniforms without badges should be introduced for students, according to a new report issued by the Oireachtas Education Committee.

The report, compiled by TDs and senators, was launched today following an evaluation of school costs.

The committee found that some success in reducing the cost of school uniforms had been almost fully offset by the rising cost in gym gear.

Committee chair, Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O'Loughlin, said that the introduction of branded school tracksuits was doubling the cost for parents.

"During our consultations we found that in the majority parents absolutely wanted generic uniforms," Ms O'Loughlin said.

In 2017 a circular was issued by the Department of Education advising schools that they would receive a "premium capitation payment" on the introduction of cost-saving measures including uniforms with iron-on crests.

However, Deputy O'Loughlin said "there seems to be no-one in the department to follow up on the circular. We feel it should be stronger. It should be mandatory."

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Barnardos estimates that the cost of sending a child to school is €360 a year per senior infant, and €765 for a first year pupil.

CEO of the charity, Suzanne Connolly, said the recommendation for generic uniforms needed to be mandatory. 

"Uniforms have an opportunity to be a real equaliser. It is ridiculous that there are school crests. If there was no school crest you could buy them cheaply," she said. 

"Schools should care about children loving learning and reaching their potential. That's what matters. What they wear should be fairly irrelevant once they are well clothed". 

The report said the costs involved in attending school had become "one of the biggest worries for parents at back-to-school time".

The committee recommended an increase of 20m in funding for the school book rental scheme and the honouring of the commitment to restore capitation rates to 2010 levels. 

TDs and senators also considered barriers to education concluding that the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) scheme, grant systems and other supports currently in place to assist disadvantaged students are inadequately addressing inequality.

"There was a clear sense that the education system as it currently stands is unfair and unequal," the report states.

The deputies and senators found that "equalising opportunity" through education had proved inadequate and that "it is accepted that some people win and some lose and those who end up at the top of the pile have done so through their own merits". 

The Committee said young people, who are from less affluent backgrounds were "destined to struggle and lack access to opportunities and outcomes that are freely available to those from more affluent communities".

Lone parents, prisoners and those living in poverty were shown to be particularly vulnerable. 

Members said a "large change needs to occur in how we view inequality" in order to lead to a significant shift in outcome. 

The report recommends moving to an approach which equalises the conditions in which children are living and growing including the expansion of programmes which engage low-educated parents during adulthood and the appointment of a teacher in each school who can act as a point of contact for vulnerable groups and as liaison point for external agents. 

Members advised that consideration be given to additional supports to parents in disadvantaged communities "to ensure that children regularly attend at least one ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) pre-school year".

They also recommended that DEIS schools provide a programme of internships for students in DEIS schools which foster progression into higher professions.

In a statement the Department of Education said the Government was, "deeply conscious of the need to reduce costs for families, particularly those families with children of school age".

It said decisions around uniforms should be taken at a local level by schools and school boards, "but these decisions should only be taken in consultation with the parents, students and the school staff and wider teaching community".

The department said a "reward" offered to schools in 2017 for introducing cost-savings for parents was now being provided to all schools.

"While the circular provided, as resources permit, to reward schools that can provide evidence of having adopted the principles of cost-effective practice, the Department recognises the need to improve capitation funding for all schools.

"To this end, in 2019, the Department has provided for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/20 school year".