Tuesday 20 August 2019

Call for ban of 'anything but voluntary' school payments

Stock photo
Stock photo

Wayne O’Connor

Labour wants to ban €45m worth of school payments made by families to fund school trips and extra-curricular activities that leave hard-pressed parents feeling “shame” and embarrassment.

Under new proposals being debated in the Seanad today schools will no longer be able to seek voluntary contributions from parents.

These are sums paid on top of school books and uniforms, often used to fill funding gaps in schools.

Labour spokesperson on education Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said such payments are “anything but voluntary” and put parents under undue pressure.

Labour Party senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Picture: Collins
Labour Party senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Picture: Collins

He said parents who cannot afford to make contributions to their child’s school are left with a sense of “shame” and are less likely to take part in school activities and parent-teacher meetings as a result.

"Parents shouldn’t be forced to pick up the tab for the failure of the Government to fund the actual costs of educating our children. Voluntary contributions are a marker of an education system which is inadequately funded and they place an unfair burden on families.

”We are calling for voluntary contributions to be done away with. The legislation I introduced in the Seanad to ban these so-called 'voluntary' contributions will today move to the second stage in the Seanad. We also outlined costed plans to make primary education free part of our alternative budget for 2019.”

The Government will not be opposing Free Education (Prohibition of Fees and Charges) Bill but has a number of concerns about the impact the ban will have on book rental schemes, school trips to zoos, swimming pools and transport costs being passed on to schools.

Education Minister Joe McHugh is to seek the advice of the attorney general about the Government’s concerns.

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