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Survey finds education burden falls on parents

Thursday, 3rd August, 2017 9:07am

By Abigail Baker

Parents are carrying the financial burden of the underfunded education system, according to the 2017 Barnardos Annual School Costs Survey.

The survey found that expenses such as books, uniforms, stationery, classroom resources and voluntary contributions can be financially crippling for families. 

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.

The survey also found that 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.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy at Barnardos, 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."

A circular issued by the Department of Education last April urged schools to reduce the financial burden on parents by taking steps such as providing a book rental scheme, opting for "sew on" or "iron on" crests on school uniforms and supplying parents with recommendations for where o buy items at the best value.

A school's failure to take the actions outlined by the circular could result in funding cuts. 

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 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.

Ms Tinsley said: "No other public service has to subsidise their funding to keep the show on the road, so why should the Department of Education expect schools to have to undertake extensive fundraising activities from parents and staff to fund necessities? Budget 2018 must take the first steps towards making education free for all children by providing free books for all pupils in primary school."

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