The book stops with Minister for Education on the cost of back to school
Labour spokesperson on Education, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has reiterated his proposals of State provided school books at no cost to parents and bans on voluntary contributions. This follows today’s report of findings from the Irish League of Credit Unions which indicates that one-third of parents now need to take on personal debt to get their children back to school ready.
Speaking today Senator Ó Ríordáin said:
“Today’s report is disappointing and very worrying. Back to school costs are now averaging between €1000 and €1379 per child, which is up on last year. This is a ludicrous state of affairs. Parents now find themselves having to take out personal loans just to cover the cost of books and basic school supplies. Even more worrying is the increase of people looking to money lenders, which was the reality for one in four parents asked.
“What is most upsetting about the findings published today is the impact this cost is having on children. A quarter of parents asked said they are not in a position to buy their children new shoes for the next school year, and with others having to sacrifice their kid’s extracurricular activities to cover the cost of going back to school.
“In our constitution, Article 42.4 recognises the right of every child to free access to an 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. Even in schools where parents have access to a book rental scheme, it still requires a payment of around €50 a year for an essential part of children’s education.
“Labour’s proposal is simple; a free school books scheme should 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. We are also calling for voluntary contributions to be done away with. 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.
“According to Barnardos’ 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.
“At the end of the day, the book stops with the Minister for Education and his Cabinet colleagues. If he has the political will to curtail the spiraling cost of back to school and is willing to commit to free education for all, I have no doubt he would find broad support across the political spectrum. Parents and children deserve better than this, and it is time for the government to act.”
Details of the Labour Party Policy Statement are available here: https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/making_prim_ed_free.pdf