Saturday 17 August 2019

Back To School 'bonus' among proposals 'that could help parents to cut costs'

Sinn Fein to launch Back To School proposals to help parents cut costs (Stock pic)
Sinn Fein to launch Back To School proposals to help parents cut costs (Stock pic)

Aoife Moore

SINN FÉIN 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 Ó 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 78pc of parents were struggling financially with Back To School costs, up on 68pc 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 getting their children ready for primary school and €1,399 for secondary, while over a third of families fall into debt over this period, and 24pc 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 Féin proposal is eliminating schools voluntary contributions.

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

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

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

Sinn Féin 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 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 Ó 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 available to eliminate voluntary contributions, and recommended "non-badged generic uniforms", to keep uniform prices down.

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