Thursday 22 August 2019

Sinn Fein to launch Back To School proposals to cut costs for parents

Irish League of Credit Unions this year found that 78% of parents were struggling financially with Back To School costs.

Students study and write in their exercise books (Ben Birchall/PA)
Students study and write in their exercise books (Ben Birchall/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Sinn Fein is to launch a raft of Back To School proposals in order to help parents cut costs.

The document, to be launched on Wednesday by TD Donnchadh O Laoghaire, takes on a number of key areas in the education system, after a recent Oireachtas Committee report called on the government to do more to lessen unnecessary stress to parents and families.

A survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions this year found that 78% of parents were struggling financially with Back To School costs, up on 68% the previous year.

Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said schools are not doing enough to keep costs down.

Parents are spending an average of 949 euro getting their children ready for primary school and 1,399 euro for secondary, while over a third of families fall into debt over this period, and 24% will go to moneylenders to find the funds for school supplies.

The report also found that two thirds of parents have to decide that a child does not participate in some extracurricular activities so that they can cover costs and a third of them will not be able to afford school trips.

One Sinn Fein proposal is eliminating schools voluntary contributions.

In primary schools, according to Barnardos, 67% of parents have been asked for a voluntary contribution, up 11% on last year.

In secondary schools, 71% of parents have been asked to pay a contribution, an increase of 2% since last year.

The average cost at primary level is 85 euro and in secondary it is 225 euro.

Sinn Fein proposes that the government should work towards the goal of eliminating voluntary contributions, by eliminating the funding shortfall with funding to schools increased.

They also suggest a 140 euro Back To School Bonus for every child paid at the start of July, legislative measures to ensure schools make uniforms affordable, and significantly expanding School Meals Programme, along with a Holiday Hunger Scheme, which would see school dinners provided throughout the summer.

“Every year, every summer, parents are put to the pin of their collar trying to organise uniforms, shoes, books, so-called ‘voluntary contributions’ and much more,” Mr O Laoghaire said.

“More than any other time of year it becomes abundantly clear that free primary and secondary education in this state is a myth.

“Far from a relaxed time, summer can cause huge stress to thousands upon thousands of families across the country.”

An Oireachtas Education Committee report has already urged Education Minister Joe McHugh to make 229 million euro available to eliminate voluntary contributions, and recommended “non-badged generic uniforms”, to keep uniform prices down.

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