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Education circular has little impact, parents say

Wednesday, 9th August, 2017 4:46pm

Many parents are struggling to afford staggering back to school costs, according to the 2017 Barnardos Annual School Costs Survey. 

The Department of Education issued a circular last April that urged schools to reduce costs, but many parents felt the circular had little impact, the survey said.
45 per cent of parents were forced to forgo other bills or curb daily expenses to pay school costs, and seven per cent of parents took on debt by borrowing from friends, credit unions or moneylenders.
A parent in the survey said: "The circular that went out from the Department in relation to getting rid of crests and having to have book rental schemes made me sigh with relief, but when I asked the principal if they would be implementing this for the new crested school tracksuit, I was told no. 
"When I asked if this stance would change next year (as arrangements may already have been in place for this year), I was told again no, as we don't have a crested uniform, but we do as the crested top for the tracksuit was €40. I have three children in the school. School management can still seem to do what they like, despite Department circulars."
Steps the circular outlined include providing a book rental scheme, opting for 'sew on' or 'iron on' crests on school uniforms and supplying parents with recommendations for where to buy required items at the best value.
Average total school costs for 2017 were €355 for a senior infants student, €395 for a fourth class student and €800 for a first year student, the survey said.
The survey's recommendations to improve the system include investing an additional €103.2m into primary education annually. This could be phased in over the course of three years, but would start with investing €20m to provide free school books. Once truly free primary education were achieved, the next step would be to invest €126.9m annually to make secondary education free for all.
June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy at Barnardos, who conducted the survey said: "Parents are yet again stressed and over-burdened by back to school costs. It affects so many families, not just those on low incomes. The impact of these mounting costs mean many parents are forgoing other bills, cutting back on daily expenses or ending up in debt."

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