Lack of movement on free school books disadvantaging children

04 April 2022

Following the Minister for Children’s announcement of the First 5 My Little Library Initiative, Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called on the Department of Education to extend free school books to all children in this state.

Deputy 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. With inflation, the spike in energy prices, the cost of food increasing, many parents will already be anticipating and dreading the back to school costs in September.

“Parents already pay too much to send their children to school, yet there are no meaningful attempts from government to cut costs for struggling parents. By providing all school books free of charge, government could make a difference that parents would feel in their pockets. This is something already happening in Northern Ireland.

“Book costs remain too high. From a survey I carried out last summer, we found that parents of primary school children are spending an average of €116 on books, and secondary school parents spending €279. Rental schemes clearly aren’t making enough of a difference. We’re told by the Department that circa. 96% of primary schools and 68% of post-primary schools operate a book rental scheme. Government must bridge this gap and ensure that school books are provided for by the State.

“Labour estimates that the annual cost of this would be €40 million across our school system. €1 million was provided last year for a pilot in 102 DEIS primary schools but it is time to make it a national commitment. For schools that require tablets or ipads the costs are significantly higher and where subsidised are often tied to voluntary contributions.

“Every child should have a fair start. Investing in education is key. With the cost of living continuing to soar, government must begin laying the groundwork now to ease the burden on parents when the September back to school costs really start to pinch.”

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