Devastating report shows it’s time for free education

26 July 2022

Responding to the annual Barnardos survey on back to school costs, Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said it’s time to make education genuinely free.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“It’s time for a step change from this government and see movement to making education genuinely free. From the Barnardos report, it’s clear that the increase in the Back to School allowance is only tinkering around the edges. What is needed is for the State to provide for books, shoes, uniforms for children in September.

“Parents are relying on goodwill to borrow money from friends and family, they are being pushed to take out loans or use credit cards. In a modern, ‘wealthy’ society, is this the way we are happy to treat families?

“Over half of respondents confirmed that the increased cost of living is making this year more challenging in terms of back to school costs. The cost of living isn’t some abstract concept. In April, Labour called for the budget to be brought forward in anticipation of the summer pinch point for parents. A Labour Budget would make school books free to all school children. At an estimated cost of €40 million to the State, this would represent value for money in terms of levelling the playing field for all children. It would provide a real impact for struggling families.

“As well as the material needs for school going children, parents are expected to cough up huge ‘voluntary’ contributions. These are another financial block when it comes to children’s education, as confirmed by the Barnardos report. Voluntary contributions are a marker of an education system which is inadequately funded, and they place an unfair burden on families. They need to go.

“Extortionate back to school costs are pushing parents to the brink at a time when all the basics are costing more. Irish food prices are the third most expensive across all 27 countries in the EU, fuel prices are up, transport costs are up, most people can’t even think of taking a family holiday this year. Families shouldn’t be forced to do without essentials in order to give their children a chance.

“The value placed on education is a marker of how a society views its young people. Every child deserves a chance. Parents are doing their best in excruciating economic circumstances, but it’s clear that too many are struggling. They need a break and assurance that this government will give their child every opportunity to thrive, regardless of their economic circumstances.”

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