Relationship between parent and school should not be a financial one

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
08 May 2019

Labour spokesperson on Education, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has reiterated his proposal for a ban on voluntary contributions. This proposal is included in the Labour Party ’Free Education Bill’ which is being progressed to Second Stage in Seanad Eireann today. 

Speaking today Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“We in the Labour party believe that the relationship between parent and school should not be a financial one. Yet it has increasingly become just that. 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. 

“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. Voluntary contributions are a marker of an education system which is inadequately funded and they place an unfair burden on families. 
”We are calling for voluntary contributions to be done away with. The legislation I introduced in the Seanad to ban these so-called ‘voluntary’ contributions will today move to the second stage in the Seanad. We also outlined costed plans to make primary education free part of our alternative budget for 2019. 

“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.”

Full text of Bill can be read here: https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/bill/2018/47/eng/initiated/b4718s.pdf
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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