Average back to school bill soars to €815

THE average cost for a child entering secondary school has rocketed to €815 – over €500 more than the back-to-school allowance.

About 60% of parents said they faced higher costs this year than they did ahead of the 2009/10 school year.

The children’s charity Barnardos has warned that children’s futures should not be sacrificed to the recession. Today it is launching a survey which reveals the average basic cost for a child going into first year is €815, while the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance for eligible families is only €305.

Barnardos said the average cost did not include items such as school bags, sports equipment or extra-curricular activity costs.

Chief executive Fergus Finlay said the findings, from a survey of more than 250 parents, indicated a worrying trend. He suggested the Government would have to take action to ease families’ financial burden.

Central to the increased back-to-school costs was a yearly increase of 9.1% in the cost of education, according to the Consumer Price Index published in June. That compares with an overall price decrease of 1.1%.

Mr Finlay said: “Despite the extreme financial pressures facing families with children, the costs associated with sending children to school have actually risen.

“It is imperative that Government takes this into account when considering the upcoming budget; families who are dependent on social welfare or on low incomes absolutely cannot afford any cuts to their income or to supports.

“Children’s futures cannot be sacrificed to the recession,” he added.

The survey revealed a number of higher costs and the reasons behind them.

* School books, with 58% of parents stating they paid more this year than last.

* Specific uniforms with school crests, which are worn by 90% of pupils and add to the cost.

* Pressure on parents to provide top branded footwear and sportswear.

The survey revealedthat school books cost more for children entering first year and fifth year at secondary level, in line with the onset of the Junior and Leaving Certificate cycles.

Current Government supports include addressing advantage in schools categorised as disadvantaged under the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), but Barnardos said 56% of pupils from unemployed backgrounds do not attend one of the country’s 667 primary and 203 secondary DEIS schools.

Barnardos also said the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance had remained unchanged since 2007 at €200 for those aged up to 11 years and €305 for those aged 12 to 22, despite the fact the numbers receiving it had increased from 180,252 in 2007 to 277,713 last year.

Barnardos has recommended that the Government needs to enforce the establishment of book rental schemes in all schools, reduce the use of workbooks that cannot be passed on and prevent increases in school transport charges and any more cuts to services and funding.

* barnardos.ie


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