Wednesday 21 August 2019

Stretched parents forced to deny children school items as costs rise

Expensive education: Parents are feeling the pinch getting children
ready for school. Stock Image
Expensive education: Parents are feeling the pinch getting children ready for school. Stock Image
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

A third of parents say they are being forced to deny their children some school items because they cannot afford them.

There has been an increase in the number of parents saying that back-to-school costs are a burden on their families, according to the latest survey of school costs carried out for the Irish League of Credit Unions.

Getting a child ready for secondary school costs an average of €1,400 this year, up €20 on the cost last year.

The survey revealed parents of primary school children are shelling out €940, down €50 from last year. One out of 10 parents of secondary schoolchildren say they are finding the costs involved a struggle.

Slightly fewer parents of primary schoolchildren say they are under pressure on education costs, according to the survey carried out on 882 parents nationwide for the league by iReach Insights.

Around a third of parents expect to get into debt to fund the back-to-school costs.

The average debt is €322, a lower figure than in previous years.

Of those taking on debt, around a quarter are turning to moneylenders.

However, this figure is down slightly from last year.

The average amount borrowed from moneylenders has also fallen slightly from €450 last year, to €439 this year.

One-third say they will be forced to deny their children certain school items because they can't afford them. To help make ends meet, 68pc of parents plan to cut out extracurricular activities, with 30pc of parents saying they won't spend on school trips.

Parents also plan to cut back on physical education gear, with new shoes off the list in one-in-five households with school-goers. Families are also cutting back on holidays to have money to spend on education, the survey shows.

A rising number of parents say they are under pressure to buy branded goods.

More than half said they were feeling this pressure, compared with 43pc last year.

Paul Bailey, of the Irish League of Credit Unions, welcomed the recent publication of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills report on its examination of school costs. That report recommended that generic uniforms and PE gear should be introduced in schools to reduce costs for families.

"We are calling on the Government to take more affirmative action to tackle the rising costs of sending children back to school. The recommendations outlined in the Joint Committee on Education and Skill's report, if taken on board, will go a long way to easing this annual burden on parents," Mr Bailey said.

The most expensive item at second level was again books, coming in at €220 compared with €200 last year. Uniforms and clothing were next on the list at €200, up from €179 last year. At primary school level, parents are cutting back on school lunches, with the spend falling from €142 last year to €102 this year.

After-school care has also seen a drop from €140 to €117. Extra-curricular activities continue to be the biggest spend at €159, up from €153 in 2018.

Irish Independent

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