Parents struggle as back to school costs rise again this year
Parents are facing costs of up to €800 to get their child ready for school this year.
A study by the Irish League of Credit Unions found that almost a third of parents find themselves in debt covering back to school costs with parents spending an average of almost €400 per child on uniforms and books this September.
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The survey found that uniforms can cost an average of €166 for primary school children and €258 for secondary school students. School books for primary school children cost an average of €106 and €213 for secondary school students. Over two thirds of those surveyed said the costs will impact their ability to pay household bills or afford a holiday. The survey also found that 20 per cent of parents surveyed said they will need to borrow to meet the costs of going back to school.
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A similar study was conducted by Barnados, the national children's charity, which found that the average costs of sending a child into Senior Infants this year is €365. This increases to €390 to send a child to fourth class while shockingly it costs around €785 to send a child to first year in secondary school.
In total, 1,404 parents completed Barnardos School Costs Survey 2015. The majority of respondents (946) had children attending primary school while the remaining 458 respondents' children were in secondary school.
All three figures have increased on last year's back to school costs of €345 for a child going into Senior Infants, €380 for a fourth class child and €735 for a first year student.
This is the 10th year of Barnardos' School Costs Survey. The charity said that: 'Over the last decade the survey has provided a sobering insight into the cost of sending a child to school in Ireland, as well as the strain placed on families in the run up to the new school term each year.
'Unfortunately this year is no different with the 2015 survey demonstrating that parents are still struggling to meet the cost of uniforms, books and school payments. Ten years on and parents are still worrying about the effect underinvestment in education by the Government is having on their ability to make ends meet and their child's ability to thrive and do well in school.
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One of the greatest myths perpetuated by the Government is that education is free for all children. Barnardos' School Costs Survey demonstrates that education is not free. Each year parents must fill the gap in funding to ensure their child can fully participate in school. Education is a crucial factor in a child's development and children spend a sizeable proportion of their life in school. Parents want the best for their children and appreciate the importance of a good education, so if they must make sacrifices elsewhere in the household budget or take out a loan or end up in debt to send their child to school, they do. Asking parents to make these kinds of difficult choices to give their child an equal chance at a bright future is unacceptable and incompatible with our notion of a fair and just modern Ireland.
Financial expert and founder of the Irish Financial Review, Frank Conway, those who are most financially vulnerable will end up paying the most when it comes to covering the costs.
Mr Conway said that parents who might turn to moneylenders, as well as parents sacrificing food, are just some of the most worrying aspects of the survey.
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He said when families who have children in primary and secondary schools tot up all their costs, they could be faced with a bill of around €1,000; money, he said, many people do not have.
Mr Conway said the main cost burdens are uniforms, books, lunches and transport.
If parents have to borrow, he said, they should pay off the debt quickly to avoid paying late fees and charges. Families should also give themselves enough time to shop around for deals, he said.
Mr Conway called on the Government to roll out a more robust solution than the book rental scheme, as families with multiple children will see costs mounting in this area.
Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan said she noted the burden of costs on families and the Government would continue to support parents to bring costs down.
The minister added that the book rental scheme has been rolled out to 95 per cent of schools and that the Government will continue to invest in this scheme as it is a practical way of helping parents.
She said there has been considerable pressure put on publishers to try to combat the changing of books every couple of years.