Parents go hungry to pay for schoolThursday, August 2nd, 2012
There has been little reduction in the cost of Ireland’s so called ‘free education’ according to Barnardos, which released a survey showing that parents skimp on food and other essentials to pay for schooling for their children.
“We cut back on food and let other bills go unpaid to ensure children have what they need for school. We’re living on the edge all the time. So much for free education,” said one of the 987 parents responding to Barnardos’ School Costs Survey 2012.
In some cases, costs have remained stable or reduced slightly since 2011 but parents continue to struggle with increasingly stretched household incomes.
The Barnardos’ survey found that, on average, parents pay €355 for a child in senior infants, €390 for children in 4th class in primary school and €770 for children going into first year in secondary school. Schoolbooks and uniforms continue to pose the highest cost to parents, although voluntary contributions and school transport costs also weigh heavily on parents’ budgets.
“The parents who responded to our survey are also showing real fear and concern at how they are going to make sure their children have what they need to get an education. Many parents are being forced to make very difficult choices and many are getting into debt to pay for uniforms, books and other education expenses. Concrete solutions for tackling the costs associated with sending children to school are long overdue,” said Barnardos’ CEO, Fergus Finlay.
Barnardos welcomed the Code of Practice agreed between educational publishers to refrain from publishing new editions last year but said that indications from the School Costs Survey were that parents are not yet seeing the impact of the code in book lists for 2012 – 2013.
The children’s charity called on the Government to look to neighbouring jurisdictions that have been operating free schoolbook systems for children for decades.
Outlining the systems in Northern Ireland and Scotland, Barnardos urged Government to adopt its proposed plan for moving Ireland gradually towards free or low cost schoolbooks for all children. This plan would allow schools to build up a full set of schoolbooks for each child over a 5-year period within the existing grants allocated by the Department for Education and Skills.
Mr Finlay said that cuts to school budgets are reducing direct supports to children and mean that schools are increasingly relying on parents to make up the shortfall for day-to-day costs.
This is reflected in a table provided by Barnardos, which shows that the voluntary contribution for a primary school pupil increased from €75 in 2011 to €100 in 2012. In secondary school this cost reduced by €25.
To read the full Back to School Costs Report visit http://bit.ly/OJQtI3
by Ann Marie Foley