The cost of equipping children for the return to school is leaving thousands of families financially stretched.
The latest Barnardos back-to-school survey shows the majority of parents are worried about meeting the costs this year.
Parents are finding themselves under considerable financial pressure to meet costs with some having to take extreme measures like missing meals to meet the school-related expenditure.
Barnardos called on the Government to ensure that this year’s Budget makes provision for free schoolbooks for all children.
It also wants all schools to have an option of an affordable uniform and called for an end to voluntary contributions.
The charity further called for the Department of Social Protection to maintain the back-to-school allowance increases.
The increased back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance means children aged between four and 11 will secure €260 rather than €160.
Children aged over 11 will benefit by €385 rather than €285.
Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys has said 151,000 families will benefit from this year’s €84m scheme.
Barnardos said its Back to School Survey 2022 show that the basic cost of sending a child to school in this year remains substantial.
The average cost of the basics needed for a fourth-class pupil is €424. For a first-year secondary-school pupil the cost is put at €814 by the children’s charity.
Equipping a fifth-year pupil requires spending €722.
Barnardos is calling on the Government in Budget 2023 to recognise and introduce measures to alleviate the pressures that families are under
The survey found that more than two-thirds of primary and three-quarters of secondary school parents are worried about meeting costs this year.
And a large number of parents of primary- and secondary-school children said they were very concerned.
Almost half of parents said recent cost-of-living increases had made it much more difficult to meet costs
A further one third of parents said the cost rises had made it slightly more difficult.
Schools continue to ask parents to buy crested or branded uniforms. Some 75pc of primary and 95pc of secondary-school parents reported that they are required to buy crested or branded uniforms.
Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly said: “Barnardos is calling on the Government in Budget 2023 to recognise and introduce measures to alleviate the pressures that families are under.
“Parents have told us that their children’s back-to-school costs are placing considerable financial pressure on them, particularly as a result of rapid cost-of-living increases.
“Barnardos believes that no parent should face financial pressure and struggles in trying to meet what are essential costs for their children’s education. No child should feel any anxiety about their parents’ ability to meet school costs.”
She added the underfunding of schools means parents are trying to help schools meet funding shortfalls through voluntary contributions.