Emergency budget must provide for free school books

01 July 2022
  • Children must be given every chance at success

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríodáin has called on government to provide a commitment to working families before the summer recess that significant back to school measures will be implemented to ease the burden on parents.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said if government has a true understanding of the cost of the return to school for ordinary families, then measures to ease the burden of school books, uniforms, administrative fees and other costs will be announced before the Dáil recess.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“School costs are extortionate in this country and my office is already inundated with representations from hard working and very concerned parents about how they will provide for books and uniforms for their children in September. With chatter of the budget being brought forward, I am calling on the Minster for Education to fight for the children. It’s time for the State to take the lead and provide school books to all children.

“Every child deserves a chance. Providing school books free of charge would make a huge difference to working families who are trying to do their best in excruciating economic circumstances.

“The cost of living crisis isn’t some abstract concept. The reality of it is that parents are stretched just to make ends meet and give their children a chance. That’s before they even think about the book list and uniforms in September. Time and again parents come to me to talk about how excessive school related costs are pushing them into financial hardships.

“This week, the CSO showed that Irish food prices are the third most expensive across all 27 countries in the European Union. For most families, this doesn’t mean that their shopping is costing more, it means they are trying to survive on less. Booklists are starting to arrive into homes, and families will be forced to do without essentials in order to give their children a chance.

“Last summer, Labour carried out a survey which found that the average family is spending nearly €900 on back to school costs. Book costs remain too high despite rental schemes meant to be in place for most schools. 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. Putting this money back in parents’ pockets is the equivalent of an extra week’s shopping or a family trip to the cinema. It’s a practical measure that would mean so much to so many.

“School books should simply be free. We estimate the annual cost of this would be €40 million across our entire school system. With the budget potentially only weeks away, providing this for families would make a real impact. The Minister has an opportunity now to finally address school costs once and for all. Hard working parents can’t cut back any more. Families are struggling and they need a break and assurance that this government will give their child every opportunity to thrive, regardless of their economic circumstances.

“Every child should have a fair start and 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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