Parents skipping household bills to pay for school books

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Charlie Weston

Large numbers of parents are paying more than €300 for books alone ahead of the new school year.

And the sheer cost of back-to-school expenses means many parents stop paying important household bills at this time of the year.

Leading children’s charity Barnardos accused the Government of forcing parents to subsidise an under-funded education system.

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

A senior infant in primary school costs €355 to kit out in clothes, footwear, books and to pay for classroom resources and other costs.

No other public services is subsidised to the extent that education is, said head of advocacy at Barnardos June Tinsley.

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

The survey of 1,800 parents found that 45pc of them were forced to forgo other bills or cut back on daily essentials to fund the cost of getting children ready for school.

Most parents of primary school pupils pay between €50 and €100 for books.

One in five parents of secondary school pupils pay more than €300 for books.

The survey found generic school uniforms are more common at primary level than secondary level. Parents spend on average €95 on school-specific uniforms at primary level, and between €150 and €200 for them at secondary level.

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

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

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

Many parents were aware of Education Minister Richard Bruton’s circular in April to schools to take a more proactive approach in reducing the burden of costs on parents, but were disappointed they were not benefiting from it.

Ms Tinsley said the costs for parents were 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 schools.

Barnardos called on the Government to uphold a child’s constitutional right to free primary education.

This should be done by committing in Budget 2018 to invest an extra €103.2m annually to make it reality for all children.

Ms Tinsley said this could be phased in over a three-year period beginning with investing €20m to provide free school books for all.

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

The charity wants to ensure school boards of management adhere to the Department of Education circular on school uniform policy to take measures to reduce the costs facing parents.

And it wants the back-to-school allowance restored to the 2010 rates.

Irish Independent

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