€1,000 back-to-school costs are leaving families crippled
THE Government and schools have been asked to do more to drive down the cost of preparing children to go back to the classroom.
The call comes after a new survey of 2,000 parents found back-to-school expenses were "crippling" for most families.
Some of the costs of getting pupils kitted out for the classroom have fallen, but the overall expense is still a huge drain on household incomes, a survey of parents by Barnardo's found.
Barnardo's boss Fergus Finlay said the costs of equipping children school "is crippling too many families".
Families with two and three children were facing having to shell out in excess of €1,000 at this time of year. Most parents just do not have that kind of money, Mr Finlay said.
"We are told we have a 'free' education system, but as our annual survey shows, this is far from the case," he said yesterday.
He welcomed the fact that parent pressure is having an effect, with indications school uniform costs are levelling off and that the voluntary code for publishers to minimise reprinting is being adhered to.
On average, the survey shows it costs €345 to get all the books, equipment and uniforms needed for a senior infant. This is down €5 on last year.
The cost for a fourth class primary school child is now €380, down €20.
Barnardo's found a first year at secondary schools costs €735 to kit out, down €50.
These costs did not include extras such as school bags, runners, and fees for extracurricular activities.
Mr Finlay said it was time for the Government to show "real leadership" on cheaper uniforms and book rental schemes. He said too many schools were still demanding that parents buy a crested uniform, while many schools had an expensive preferred supplier for uniforms.
More than 2,000 parents answered Barnardo's ninth annual School Costs Survey in early July this year.
Parents across Ireland took part in the online survey, however, about half of respondents were based in Dublin and surrounding counties.
The Back-to-School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, paid by the Department of Social Protection, is €100 for each eligible child at primary level, and €200 at secondary level.
Mr Finlay said the amounts paid had halved during the last six years of austerity and the income criteria used to qualify for the payment meant only small numbers qualified.
The Barnardo's survey found parents pay about €100 for a primary school uniform while almost one-fifth of parents report paying in excess of €250 for a secondary school uniform.
Anger was expressed by parents at the continued inability to pass books on to younger siblings because of new editions or books being changed.
Barnardo's said there was evidence schools were acknowledging the financial pressure on parents, and changing policies on uniforms and books, but not enough was being done.