Books for first-year students cost over €300

The burden of school book costs appears to be falling slightly but the outlay has risen to almost €300 for children starting second-level education.

The Barnardos school costs survey found that most parents spend an average of €76 to €100 on books for primary pupils, but the figure rises to over €300 for almost one in three with children at second-level. However, there are wide variations, with some parents of fourth-class pupils forking out €140 for books even though the average cost was closer to €85.

The average being paid for senior infants’ books this year was €75, down from €80 a year ago, and the €85 average for fourth class was down from €120 a year ago. However, first-year booklists were costing parents €300, €25 more than in the corresponding 2013 survey.

The costs of books can be enormous for households with a number of children, such as one parent with three children in primary school, whose booklist bills came to €537.

“Mainly because all books are work books and have to be bought brand new every year, it’s ridiculous,” said the parent. “Fine if I had money but I’m a single mother working part-time and a social welfare recipient.”

“Books that can be handed down should be brought back. We are no longer in a boom.”

The survey also revealed further increases in access to book rental schemes, used by 68% of primary parents, up from 55% last year and just half in 2012. However, only one in five parents of second-level students have access to a book rental scheme.

The Department of Education has provided €15m over the next three years to help primary schools establish or expand book rental schemes, although the majority will receive €18 for each pupil in 2015 and 2016 to add to existing stocks. For around 400 which did not previously have a rental scheme, the funding from the proceeds of the National Lottery licence sale will give €100 for each child enrolled over the next two school years, and €150 per pupil at disadvantaged schools.

Barnardos said there should be efficient and effective rental schemes for all schools, but it also welcomed indications that a voluntary code for publishers is being followed. While all print books are Vat-free, the charity is backing calls for the removal of the 23% Vat rate applied to e-textbooks, and also urging the department to finalise its digital strategy for schools.

Last week, the Irish Educational Publishers’ Association said a survey of members found their schoolbook prices rose by 1.4% last year, the first increase in five years.

They said that just 34 titles, 1.2% of a total of 2,758, were revised.

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