PM promises cheaper uniforms

THE first day of school is both exciting and nerve-racking for kids, but for parents it can be an expensive nightmare.

Whether it is a co-educational, boarding, public or private school, buying uniforms is not cheap.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard made her first election promise this week, vowing to introduce a tax break for parents buying school uniforms.

She promised to extend the Education Tax Refund, which already covers textbooks, computers and stationary, to include school uniforms.

Lismore teacher and mother Krystal Burley has just prepared her five-year-old daughter, Jasmine, for her first year at school next year.

“There's a lot of pressure on parents to buy their children uniforms because they don't want them to look like they are different or that they can't afford it,” she said.

“From a teacher's perspective, I think there is pressure on the parents to buy the uniforms. We (the school) like to see the kids in uniform so we remind parents to have their kids in uniform.”

Ms Burley said she had to buy a new uniform, shoes, bag and books for her daughter.

“I think the rebate will really help families,” she said.

“I will definitely use it.

“We are quite strict on our uniforms because it reflects on the school.”

Ms Burley believes a school uniform helps eradicate competition between children in relation to trends.

If Labor is re-elected, the proposed tax break will come into play in two years, when parents will be able to claim up to 50 per cent of uniform costs.

Currently, the maximum education rebate for primary school students is $390 a year, and $779 for high school students.

But the rebate does not cover the cost of some school uniforms, or paying for textbooks and stationary.

The mandatory sports uniform and standard uniform for a senior student attending St John's College Woodlawn is about $410, not including a school bag or shoes.

For a senior female student, the cost of the mandatory standard and sports uniform is about $350, not including a school bag or shoes. The St John's College uniform includes a blazer and hat.

A standard uniform – clothes alone – at Lismore's Richmond River High for a male student is about $145.

A local uniform retailer said the difference in prices between private and public school uniforms was due to the different quality materials used.

To be eligible for the uniform rebate, parents must be entitled to Family Benefit Tax Part A and the applicable income test involved.

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