Sunday 23 October 2016

Parents to spend €785 per child as back-to-school costs rise again

Back to school costs all add up
Back to school costs all add up

PARENTS have expressed their outrage over the increasing costs of sending their children to school.

A new survey of more than 1,400 parents has found that it costs €785 to put a child through their first year of secondary school, an increase of €50 on last year.

It now costs €365 for a senior infant and €390 for a fourth class student, thanks to costs from books, clothing, footwear and other expenses.

The bulk of the expense continues to come from school books, particularly for secondary school children, where they make up on average 40pc of the total costs.

The average price of books in secondary schools has increased by around €25 and voluntary contributions now average €150.

Parents in primary schools are paying a voluntary contribution fee of up to €100.

In order to deal with the demanding costs, a significant number of parents admitted that they have had to take out loans to compensate.

One-in-ten primary school parents and one-in-five secondary school parents took out loans this year.

The information comes from Barnardos’ annual School Costs Survey, which is aimed at highlighting the increasing strain put on parents when it comes to school costs.

Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos, claimed that the education system was “underfunded and under resourced” and that parents had to foot an unnecessary bill.

“[Parents] have told us they have to forgo paying essential bills, drastically reduce spending on food and very many are forced to borrow heavily and get into debt,” he said.

One single mother who took part in the survey said that the price of sending her children to school was now “a burden” that was “too much to have to deal with.”

“I’m going to bed worrying about it, waking up worrying about it, worrying about it all through the day,” the woman said.

Another mother said that voluntary contributions meant that her family did not have money to buy food for a few days last year.

“We got letters, texts and emails asking for the rest of the money for weeks after, we were afraid every day that our son was going to be singled out over it and we ended up selling some of our things to pay it off for fear that he would suffer for it,” she said.


“We both have good jobs but we are broken by school related costs,” a parent said.

“There seems to be no understanding of this by the school.

“Last year the school, as it     didn’t get enough voluntary contributions, did not provide toilet paper for the students for a term,” they said.

The Government currently funds the education system by contributing €20m into free books, €163m on school transport and €287m on restoring its capitation grant level.

Barnardos has called on the Government to make an investment of a further €103 million in removing the voluntary contribution and providing free classroom resources.

The group recommends that the Department of Education issue a directive on school uniform policy for all schools.

They want to place parameters on schools when they are reviewing their individual uniform policy to consider changes from a value for money perspective.

Barnardos also called on the government to restore the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance to the 2010 level.

“This increase can be introduced incrementally with a first phase increase of €50 per child costing €15m in Budget 2016,” they say.

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