Families are weighed down with the costs of sending their children to school, amid criticism of the Government for being "out of touch" with the financial strain being experienced by households.
The new Barnardos’ School Costs Survey indicates that while some savings have been made by parents compared with a year ago, in other examples the costs actually increased.
For example, based on the survey results, the typical total cost of clothing and footwear for a senior infants pupil increased by €15 and €10, respectively.
Overall, because of falls in the typical cost of schoolbooks and the voluntary contribution, the average total cost of sending a senior infants pupil back to school was €345 — €5 cheaper than last year.
The typical total cost of sending a 4th class pupil to school fell €20 in a year to €380, despite a €25 rise in the typical voluntary contribution. The typical cost of schoolbooks fell from €120 last year to €85 this year.
Sending a first-year pupil cost an average of €735 — €50 less than last year. Here, clothing costs fell €75 to €200, while the cost of schoolbooks rose €25 to €300, the single biggest expense across all three age groups.
The survey results do not include extra costs such as school bag, trainers, and extra-curricular activities.
There were also different experiences among parents when it came to efforts by the school to limit costs. While 38% of parents with primary school pupils felt there was no change in uniform costs, another 38% felt prices had increased by up to €50. More than 70% of parents with primary age children and 61% of those with children in secondary school said the school had not changed uniform in the past three years.
The first year of secondary school is the most expensive for parents, with schoolbooks the highest expenditure, despite a growth in the number of book rental and e-book initiatives.
As for the voluntary contribution, 65% of parents of primary school pupils and 76% of parents of secondary school pupils were asked to make one, with some asked for more than €200.
Barnardos said: “Tactics to pursue parents for non-payment of the voluntary contribution are common in both primary and secondary schools” — including letters, emails, and texts directly to the parents, as well as reminders in newsletters of children denied school journal or lockers if the payment is not paid.
Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos, said, “We are told we have a ‘free’ education system but, as our annual survey shows, this is far from the case. The cost of sending children back to school is crippling too many families, with the cost of uniform, school books, equipment, voluntary contributions and transport all adding up.”
All expenditure in the survey is measured against the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and Barnardos said: “the reduced rates of €100 for a primary school pupil and €200 for a secondary pupil are not keeping pace with the amounts being spent by parents and, as a result, they have a huge deficit to fill from their own limited budgets.”
It is the ninth year the charity has conducted the survey. Some 2,027 parents completed the survey — the highest ever response rate — with the majority, 1,438, having children at primary level.
One third of parents with children attending primary school and three in 10 parents with children in secondary school are engaged in full-time employment, while 14% of parents with primary school children and 15% of those with children in secondary school children said they were unemployed.
Results of the survey at barnardos.ie/schoolcosts
- €100 on average for a primary school pupil’s uniform;
- 42% of parents spend between €125 and €200 on secondary school uniforms;
- 18% of parents pay more than €250 for a secondary school uniform;
- €40 to €60 typically spent on shoes;
- 65% of parents of primary school pupils and 76% of parents of secondary school pupils were also asked for a voluntary contribution.
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