Back to school costs crippling families in a ‘wealthy’ society

02 August 2023

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has demanded that the Minister for Education step up and address runaway back to school costs, as a Barnardos survey finds that 24% of secondary school parents said they had to take out a loan or borrow money to meet the return to school costs.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“This year’s Barnardos survey is galling. This Government constantly tells us we have money to spare, we’re at full employment, yet when it comes to the practicalities, they are utterly failing.

“Yesterday, the Taoiseach announced a plan to end child poverty. This will not be worth the paper its written on unless serious funding is provided to education in Budget 2024 to level the playing field and make education genuinely free for every child in Ireland.

“The costs seem to be endless, crested uniforms, pens, copybooks, lunches, school bags, ‘voluntary’ contribution fees and school books for children at secondary school level.

“A clear and obvious starting point is to make all school books free. We estimate the annual cost of this would be €85 million across our entire school system. 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. As the Barnardos survey shows, hard working parents simply cannot cut back any more.

“Labour has long campaigned for the abolition of so-called voluntary contribution fees. It puts undue pressure on families and it is unclear precisely what the funds are used for throughout schools.

“Fine Gael are all talk when it comes to economic fairness. All the wind has gone out of the tax cut kite-flying we saw in May. We need tax monies spent better by making all school books and learning materials free.”

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