Friday 30 September 2016

Parents stung for up to €1,500 on back-to-school expenses

Breda Heffernan and Ed Carty

Published 13/07/2016 | 02:30

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Parents are spending almost €1,000 a year to send a child to primary school and €1,500 to send one to secondary school, according to a new survey.

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New research by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) has found that back-to-school costs have soared by more than a third since 2012. It now costs on average €967 to send a child back to primary school, up from €686 four years ago.

And parents getting their child ready for secondary school in September will spend on average €1,474, up from €1,090 in 2012.

Among the biggest costs facing parents of primary school children are uniforms (€145), school lunches (€129), books (€94), transport costs (€83) and the so-called 'voluntary contribution' (€77).

However, parents are also forking out for additional costs outside of school hours, including after-school care (€132) and extracurricular activities (€189).

And the costs rise steeply when it comes to secondary school, where parents are forking out for uniforms (€234), books (€214), lunches (€166), school trips (€187), 'voluntary contributions' (€160), transport (€124) and gym gear (€97).

Enrolling your secondary school child in extracurricular activities will cost, on average, a further €180.

With costs rising sharply in recent years, it is little wonder that three-quarters of parents surveyed said they did not think schools were doing enough to keep costs down.

This view was more pronounced (83pc) among parents of children at secondary school, where the costs are higher.

Read more: Families cutting back on food to pay rising school bills, survey says

Over a third of parents said they felt under pressure to buy branded school supplies, particularly for their secondary school children. Two-thirds of parents admitted that meeting back-to-school costs would negatively impact on their household bills and family plans.

Most said they would have to sacrifice a family holiday or children's summer camps in order to cover the cost of sending their children back to school.

However, 13pc of those surveyed said they would have to cut back on how much they spent on food in order to cover school expenses.

Ed Farrell, chief executive of the ILCU, urged people to properly assess what they need, set a budget and then stick to it.

Contributions

"While it can be tedious, we would urge parents to shop around for the best-value deals," he said. "Many of the major retailers will offer fantastic deals on uniforms and school supplies.

"Most importantly, avoid using moneylenders. If you are considering a loan, make sure to visit your local credit union to see what is available to you."

The credit union survey found that almost one-third of parents got themselves into debt trying to pay the bills.

On average, parents borrowed €357, down slightly from last year by just €3.

And 14pc of the mothers and fathers in debt over back-to-school costs said they had used a moneylender at one time to get the cash.

One-third of parents this year said the back-to-school charges would have no adverse impact on them, up from 28pc last year.

Almost eight out of 10 parents are now expected to make a voluntary contribution to the school, the survey found.

On average, this costs €118 per child.

The amount sought in voluntary contributions is up this year. Parents of secondary school children are asked to make the biggest voluntary contribution, on average €160 in 2016, compared to €147 in 2015.

The average 'voluntary contribution' sought by primary schools is unchanged at €77 per child.

Some 60pc of those surveyed said they now shopped online for back-to-school items for their children, up more than 10pc from a year ago.

Saving money, getting better deals and convenience were cited as the main reasons for doing so.

Irish Independent

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