Ballymena Academy Deputy Principal Richard Ross was speaking to the News Letter after a poll commissioned by Save the Children NI found the majority of parents surveyed (60%) find it financially challenging to cover their children’s uniform costs.
The research, carried out by LucidTalk, reveals 30% of parents have had to borrow money to afford their child’s school uniform or PE kit. Some families even said they’re even having to cut back on food, it found.
Mr Ross told the News Letter: "Our scheme for pre-loved uniforms is open to any pupil, there is nobody who is excluded.
"And there is a large uptake. It runs through the school and the parent council as a support for everybody.
"We have run it for a number of years and it is more and more successful. And certainly it is probably fair to say that there's been a higher uptake than in previous years, and that's probably the basis of financial challenges everyone is facing."
The schools scheme sees most of its demand at the end of June as families prepare for the next term, however it is open all year round.
"We have a very big uptake across the school with uniforms being supplied from pupils who are leaving or who have outgrown items."
The scheme runs for all years groups, from year eight to upper sixth.
At present the school only asks for a voluntary donation.
Previously it has asked for a nominal price, for example, £5 for a £30 skirt. The money raised is then reinvested into other projects to support pupils.
Some pupils who avail of the scheme are also registered for free school meals. But other families who do not register for free school meals also avail of the scheme, where the school may be aware that their financial circumstances are "not great".
His comments come as Save the Children NI published a poll which demonstrated how widespread the pressure is on families over uniform costs.
It found that 78% of those surveyed feel not enough is being done by authorities to manage school uniform costs. The poll also found that one in 10 (11%) families say their child had to miss school because of issues related to uniform or PE kit.
It also found that 97% of respondents believe schools should ensure parents can choose their own supplier for uniforms and PE kit, with 64% supporting generic uniforms from high street shops as one solution to the growing problem of affordability.
Save the Children’s NI Policy & Public Affairs Adviser Naomi McBurney said: “For most families the uncapped cost of school uniforms and PE kits adds to their already stretched finances. This year more than ever budgets have been stretched and the pressure to afford even the most basic items has put many parents to the test."
Save the Children NI runs a pre-loved uniform scheme at its store in east Belfast.
In NI some families qualify for a one-off payment to help buy school uniforms. There is no closing date. See: www.eani.org.uk/financial-help/free-school-meals-uniform-grants/apply-for-free-school-meals-uniform-grants