Time to make primary education free

28 June 2018

Labour Education spokesperson, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has today published new proposals to ensure a real free primary education so that the State provides school books at no cost to parents, bans voluntary contributions, and delivers on the commitment made in our Constitution in Article 42.4.

Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“As primary schools across the country finish up for the summer, parents will be given book lists for the next school year that will on average cost them €85 per child in primary school. They will also be asked in many cases for so called voluntary contributions to cover the shortfall of overall funding from the State.

“Our constitution says the State shall provide for free primary education. Parents shouldn’t be forced to pick up the tab for the failure of the Government to fund the actual costs of educating our children.

“Over 70% of primary school parents now have access to a book rental scheme, but it still requires a payment of around €50 a year for an essential part of children’s education.

“We are proposing that a free schoolbooks scheme be extended to all primary schools and in two years’ time roll it out in secondary schools. The details of how this would operate are outlined in our policy statement.

“According to Barnardo’s’ annual ‘School Costs’ survey from 2017, 56% of primary school parents are asked for a voluntary contribution to help fund schools.

“Given that our Constitution specifically provides for free primary education for our children, this is an outrageous situation, and is becoming an increasing burden for numerous families, many of whom are already struggling with day to day living costs, including high rents.

“It shouldn’t be the responsibility of parents to make up for the failure of the Government to adequately fund schools, via so-called ‘voluntary’ contributions, and the capitation grant must be restored to its previous level of €200 per pupil. It is currently €170 a year. After two budgets the current Government has failed to increase despite commitments in the Programme for Partnership Government.

“I have introduced legislation in the Seanad to ban these so-called ‘voluntary’ contributions, and as part of our alternative budget for 2019, Labour will outline detailed, costed plans to make primary education free.

“Every child in the State should have equal access to a quality education and parents shouldn’t be burdened with hidden costs for the basic running of a school, and the books that are central to learning.”


Details of the Labour Party Policy Statement are available here: https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/making_prim_ed_free.pdf


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