Wednesday 13 November 2019

Back-to-school costs a burden for 80pc of families

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

EIGHT out of 10 families are concerned about back-to-school costs, with some saying they are even being asked to pay for toilet paper.

A new study seen by the Irish Independent has found that many parents consider free education to be a "farce", putting them under huge financial pressure.

The survey by parenting website follows revelations in this newspaper last Saturday about increased pressure on parents to make up for €83m of cutbacks in government spending on school running costs.

Toilet paper costs were included in the €230 one parent was asked to pay for two children attending one particular school. The online survey of 332 families found that one in three are facing higher back-to-school costs than last year, and 60pc are finding them an increased burden. "The cost of sending my two children back to school at the end of August has hung like a dark cloud over me the whole summer," said one parent.

Another mother said that despite having a good job she hadn't been able to pay her mortgage for two months because of expenses of more than €700 for a daughter starting secondary school.

The costs for her younger daughter were another €265.

One in five parents said they will pay more than €600 on back-to-school items this year, while 44pc said they will pay between €300 and €600.

Families are demanding a range of measures -- including an end to new book editions and crested uniforms, and replacing costly workbooks with old-style copybooks -- in an attempt to to reduce costs.

One parent complained she was asked to pay €250 in 'voluntary' contribution administration and materials costs to her daughter's secondary school, when the same expense at her son's school was €60. Another complained she was asked to pay €75 per term as a parental contribution, plus another €100 per term for Irish dancing, and speech and drama -- all of which were compulsory and held during school hours.

"In our local national school we are charged for a person to come in to school to teach music lessons during school hours. I think it should be done free by one of the teachers," one parent said.

"I do wonder what we pay taxes for, and there is certainly no such thing as a free education in Ireland," another parent said.

However, some respondents noted they were lucky that their school operated a book rental scheme and allowed them buy generic chainstore uniforms to keep costs down.

The majority of parents said they would have to cut back on extracurricular activities for children this year because of the squeeze.

Irish Independent

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