Free education and equality at heart of Labour’s costed Education proposals

04 October 2019

Labour Party spokesperson for Education, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has said that Labour’s Alternative Education budget will tackle back to school costs for families and support those who educate our young people.

Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“Year on year, the cost of sending children back to school is rising, with parents forgoing bills and cutting back on daily essentials in order to send their kids back to school. Parents pay too much for young children to go to school. We propose to substantially reduce the cost of education for parents.

“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. In our Alternative Budget, we have allocated €40,000,000 to the provision of free school books at primary and secondary level.

“One of the major costs for parents every summer is providing suitable clothes or uniforms, shoes and other necessities when their children return to school in September. The State currently provides a means tested Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. This provides a payment of €125 for children between 4 and 12, and €250 for children aged 12 to 18, costing €49.5m in 2018. The Labour Party is proposing to make this a universal payment to all parents in July 2020 to alleviate those costs.

“Labour delivered the first improvement to class sizes in a decade. In the worst of times we protected them, and when the economy improved we immediately reduced them.

“Labour has long argued that smaller class sizes give a teacher more time to spend with each child, and can have a particularly positive impact on young children, and those in disadvantaged communities.

“In our fully costed alternative Budget, we have put the cost of reducing primary school class sizes by one point this year at €4,5m, a mere drop in the ocean in overall education spend of around €9.6bn.

“So once again, we are calling on the Government to publish a roadmap outlining how it will fulfil its Programme for Government commitment to reducing class sizes.

“It is clear that at the moment free education is still an aspiration in this country. Parents are incurring too many hefty hidden back to school charges and the Government is doing little to ease the burdens parents face.”

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