Labour call for free schoolbook scheme and end to voluntary contributions

Labour have called for all books for school children to be made free and for contributions demanded of parents to be banned.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin noted that the Constitution guaranteed free primary education.

“Now is the time to make education free,” demanded the Dublin Bay North election candidate.

Labour say that the cost of making all books free for children in primary school would cost €20m while extending this to secondary level after two years would amount to another €20m.

“This week is the last week of school. School is out for summer. This week every parent will be getting a school book list and also the implications about voluntary contributions that parents would be expected to pay in September.

"So, while it is a nice day and a nice week for schoolchildren, it can be a bit of a stressful one for parents who now realise that they have a book fee that they have to finance over the summer.”

The opposition party point out that the purchase of school books is an acute cost for families. But, Labour note, families in the North get all their school books for free.

“It happens in Derry and Down, so why not Dublin?” asked Sen Ó Ríordáin.

A free schoolbooks scheme could and should be introduced in the autumn, Labour maintain, which would be funded through general taxation. This will form part of Labour's budget submission.

The party also want voluntary contributions demanded of parents by schools to be scrapped. Such demands, often hundreds of euro for each pupil, can cause great stress and difficulties for households, especially those that are less well off, say the party.

Such a ban though would not prohibit school fundraisers. Instead, Labour say capitation grants could increase by €15m for schools.

Limerick City TD Jan O'Sullivan noted that it was at this time of the year and closer to the new school term that many families were forced to turn to the St Vincent De Paul for help and financial support.

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