Extreme pressure being put on parents getting children back to school.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
02 August 2018

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 reporting of the Barnardos ‘Back to School’ survey which has seen an increase in the number of parents paying voluntary contributions.

Speaking today Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“Today’s report from Barnardos again serves to highlight the extreme pressure being put on parents getting children ready to head back to school. There has been a rise in the number of parents paying voluntary contributions with 67% of primary, and 71% of secondary school pupils being asked to contribute.

“Half of parents have seen an increase in the costs since last year. It is manifestly unfair to put parents in a position where there are financial blocks put in the way of their children’s education. Children have a right to free and fair access to education. In our constitution, Article 42.4 recognises that right.

” While the government is busy paying lip service to the issue of childcare with this new ‘Granny Grant”, parents who are reliant on family to help them with childcare costs are also struggling to get to grips with high back to school costs.

“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 spiralling 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

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