Saturday 25 February 2017

Cut your prices: Quinn issues ultimatum to publishers

Brian Hutton

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has called on publishers to slash the price of school books.

Mr Quinn said the cover price of the most popular textbooks - for English, Irish, mathematics and other popular subjects - needed to be reduced.



The call follows meetings between the minister and publishers, parents representatives and poverty campaigners at the start of the summer.



Publishing companies would only agree to a voluntary code of practice on the selling and reprinting of educational books to schools.



In what his department described as a "significant departure" on policy by previous ministers, Mr Quinn has stepped up pressure by publicly demanding price cuts.



"My main objective in proposing these measures is to ensure that costs to students and their families are kept to a minimum and I believe that a number of steps can contribute substantially to achieving this objective," he said.



Publishers are also being asked to give significant discounts to schools making bulk purchases of textbooks, similar to discounts given to retailers.



"In the current economic climate, it is important that we do everything that we can to assist parents with back to school costs. I expect that these proposals will ease these costs in the next school year," Mr Quinn said.



The minister said further meetings with publishers are being planned for the autumn.



Any agreement is unlikely to help with back to school costs before the next school year.



Department of Education officials are also contacting all primary and second level schools to find out which schools presently operate book rental schemes.



National parents' councils have been asked to report on the best types of book rental schemes to encourage more schools to operate them.



A recent Barnardo's study found that back to school costs range from €350 for junior infants to €805 for second level students.



Around 514,600 primary school pupils and 322,500 secondary school students return to school this week after the summer break.

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