Government not doing enough to ease pressure of back to school costs

02 August 2017

Labour Party Education Spokesperson, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has said that the results of the Barnardos’ annual schools costs survey reaffirm that the Government needs to do more to reduce school costs for parents.

The survey revealed that parents are under pressure to cover daily essentials while also paying for back to school costs.

Senator Ó Ríordáin commented:

“Survey results published today show that over 45% of parents will forgo other bills, or cut back on daily essentials, as they struggle to fund the back to school spend. This struggle is even more real for parents who have more than one child of school going age. The Government must do more to ensure that parents are not suffering these financial burdens in order to send their children to school.

“Parents are feeling the pressure when it comes to basic school items such as school uniform costs and the cost of buying books. Minister for Education, Richard Bruton has taken his eye off the ball when it comes to alleviating these pressures for parents.

“For example, in 2013 Labour introduced an initiative to ease the cost of school uniforms. We are asking schools to engage with parents on school uniform policy and look at introducing more generic uniforms, which are less expensive for parents; this process needs renewed attention from Minister Bruton.

“In the upcoming Budget, the Government must make moves to further reduce book costs for parents by doubling the funding for book rental schemes. Over recent years, funding of €5m per year was spent expanding the number of book rental schemes in primary schools. As a result, such schemes are now operating in 94% of schools, reducing book costs for parents by at least 80%. However, at second-level, only 65% of schools report having a book rental scheme, and books are much more expensive at this level. Labour has proposed a new three year scheme, at a cost of an additional €5m each year, to give funding to second-level schools to establish book rental schemes.

“Our ambition should be to have free school books in all schools, just like they do in Northern Ireland.

“It is clear from the Barnardos’ school costs survey that at the moment free education is still an aspiration in this country. Parents are incurring too many hefty hidden back to school charges and the Government is doing little to ease the burdens parents face.”

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