‘Efforts do not go far enough’
A children’s charity has reacted to new measures introduced this week to reduce school costs.
Although Barnardos, which has a branch in Cork, welcomed the announcement that a circular is to be adopted by schools to reduce the costs associated with sending children to school, the charity said that “these efforts do not go far enough”.
The charity specifically welcomed the measures reducing uniform costs and stamping out use of workbooks.
This circular will come into force once it has been published in the coming days, says Education Minister Richard Bruton.
Where a school has already made arrangements for the next academic year, the circular can be implemented from September 2017.
However, June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos, said that Barnardos has long campaigned to reduce the significant financial burden placed on parents to fund school books, uniforms and all the other costs associated with sending a child to school.
She added: “The announcement that Minister Bruton is to issue a circular to schools to be mindful of costs on parents is completely insufficient and lacks any vision or recognition by the State that schools are totally underfunded.
“Barnardos has recommended to this Minister and others that it would cost just €103.2 million to guarantee a free primary education for all children in Ireland. This is only an extra cost-per-pupil of just €185.”
Ms Tinsley believes that this investment would fulfil the Government’s constitutional obligation to provide genuinely free primary education for all children.
It would cover all school books, transport fees, classroom resources fees, eliminate voluntary contribution fees and would restore the capitation grants to 2010 levels.
“If we are truly determined not to allow any child’s chance in life to be decided at birth by the income levels of their parents, we need Government investment and nothing less. While we welcome this as a small positive step and may lead to more schools taking measures to reduce the burden on parents, it fails to recognise the need for additional State investment,” she said.
This announcement is part of a suite of measures taken by Minister Bruton to take greater account of the needs of parents and students in the school system.
This includes the School Admissions Bill, which will reform information and procedures around the process of school enrolment and the commencement of Fitness to Teach, which now allows a complaint to be made about a registered teacher to the Teaching Council for the first time.
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