Budget must address lowering back to school costs

16 July 2019

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 found that a third of parents are forced to deny their children school items because they can’t afford them.

Speaking today Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“Today’s report is disappointing and very worrying. Back to school costs are now averaging at €1400 per child, which is up on last year. This is a worrying state of affairs. Parents now find themselves having to take out personal loans just to cover the cost of books and basic school supplies.

“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 2020, Labour will outline detailed, costed plans to make primary education free.

“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.

“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 €5m each year, to give funding to second-level schools to establish book rental schemes.”

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