herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Parents forced to skip paying home bills to cover school costs

Jayna McCluskey (age 8) from Whitehall and Mark Araj (10) from Beaumont pose for the launch of the Barnardos School Costs Survey 2017
Jayna McCluskey (age 8) from Whitehall and Mark Araj (10) from Beaumont pose for the launch of the Barnardos School Costs Survey 2017

Many parents are skipping household bills to meet the cost of back-to-school expenses.

Faced with forking out more than €300 for books alone, they are having to "rob Peter to pay Paul".

Barnardo's accused the Government of forcing parents to subsidise an underfunded education system.

It costs up to €800 to buy all that is needed for a pupil starting in first year in secondary school, a survey by the children's charity found.

Parents of a senior infant in primary school must find €355 for clothes, footwear, books and other costs like ­classroom resources. More than any other public service, schooling relies on ­subsidies from families, according to ­Barnado's head of advocacy June Tinsley, right.

"The ­impact of these ­mounting costs means many parents are forgoing other bills, cutting back on daily essentials or ending up in debt to ensure their children have all they need for the new year," she said.

Books

Barnardo's poll of 1,800 parents found that 45pc had to ignore other bills or cut back on daily essentials to support their children's education.

Most parents of primary school pupils pay between €50 and €100 on books. One in five parents of secondary school pupils pays more than €300. The survey found generic school uniforms are more common at primary level than secondary.

Parents spend an average of €95 on school-specific uniforms at primary level, and between €150 and €200 at secondary.

Costs have remained similar to last year's, with a slight reduction in the amount sought for the voluntary contribution, and a fall in the cost of footwear.

However, the survey found that fewer parents are being asked to pay a voluntary contribution this year.

Fundraising

Instead, more are being asked to pay the mandatory classroom resources fees.

Ms Tinsley said the costs for parents are huge.

"No other public service has to subsidise their funding to keep the show on the road, so why should the Department of Education expect schools to have to undertake extensive fundraising activities from parents and staff to fund necessities?"

She said Budget 2018 must take the first step towards making education free for all children by providing free books for all pupils in primary school.

Barnardo's urged the Government to uphold a child's constitutional right to free primary education - committing an extra €103.2m a year in Budget 2018 to make it happen.

Ms Tinsley said this can be phased in over three years starting with €20m on free school books for all.

Barnardo's also wants the Government to commit to investing €126.9m annually to make secondary education free for all children once the goal of free primary education has been achieved.

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