Irish mother on the cost of primary education: 'Unless you've a salary of over €70k, you're going to be affected'

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Sarah Eustace. Image: Barnardos

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thumbnail: Sarah Eustace. Image: Barnardos
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Amy Mulvaney

An Irish mother-of-one has shared how sending her son to school in September is costing over €500, while paying the voluntary contribution requested by the school would leave her in debt.

Sarah Eustace, from South Dublin, told that the cost of sending her six-year-old son to first class is "very daunting."

Ms Eustace's comments follow new figures released from the Barnardos School Costs Survey, which show that that 45pc of parents are forgoing other bills or cutting back on daily expenses in order to afford to send their children to school.

According to the figures, most parents of primary school pupils pay between €50 and €100 for books, while parents spend on average €95 on school-specific uniforms at primary level.

Sarah Eustace. Image: Barnardos

Meanwhile, a poll on found that almost half of people said they are skipping household expenses to cover back-to-school.

Of those sampled 47pc of people said they are deferring paying their bills as September approaches.

"The figures released by Barnardos this morning are no surprise, they’re what I expected," said Ms Eustace.

"The costs for the primary school my son attends is slightly higher than the average, with book rent for the year and stationary costing €135 alone.

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"It’s higher than the general figure, and I can’t help but wonder why. The voluntary contribution I’m asked to pay is also one of the highest, at €250. It’s only a new school, and I don’t understand why it’s not getting enough funding from the government."

Ms Eustace added that she "can't imagine" how parents pay for schooling when they have more than one child.

"The total cost works out at over €500, and it’s very daunting. I can’t imagine how parents pay when they have more than one child, I know I wouldn’t be able to afford it."

She added that being unable to pay the voluntary contribution requested by the school last year left her wondering if it would affect her son's position in the classroom.

"I paid the voluntary contribution for the first year, but I couldn’t afford it last year and I felt bad. I wondered if I was the only parent who didn’t pay it, how the school would manage if I wasn’t. I worried whether my child would be ostracised or treated differently.

"If I paid it, I would be in debt. Budgeting throughout the year is an option and I can put money away, but something unexpected always comes up and it’s not always possible to budget."

"I heard someone speaking on the radio this morning saying, ‘Don’t parents realise that having a child means having these costs?’ but these are costs that can be avoided.

"I don’t understand why we don’t have free schooling, we pay for everything else."

Adding further to the cost is the school's crested jumper and tracksuit, which removes the possibility of buying a generic brand, and the use of books that can't be bought second hand, said Ms Eustace.

"It's not as if there's a choice of another school to send him to. There’s no other choice of school. He either goes there, or he doesn’t go at all, which isn’t an option.

"The government could be cleverer with books to bring costs down. They keep changing, so it’s impossible to buy second hand, and they use workbooks that can’t be used again."

Ms Eustace said that she hasn't "met a parent that’s not complaining about the costs."

"The government prioritises other things over free education, and I don’t understand why.  Unless you have a salary of over €70k, you’re going to be affected.

"I just hope that the government takes this seriously and provides free books and education, a standard uniform and provides enough funding so voluntary contributions are a thing of the past."

For more information on the Barnardos School Costs Survey and the services Barnardos provides, visit