REDUCED family incomes are putting a strain on students -- and parents in traditionally affluent areas are struggling to pay for books.
A new survey of teachers by the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) highlights the effects of the financial crisis on second- and third-level students.
'Impact of Budget Cuts in Education' shows that many students have been badly hit after one or both parents lost their jobs.
The independent study of 283 respondents -- made up of principals and teachers -- and 141 schools also reveals how government cutbacks are affecting secondary schools and universities.
Key findings include:
• 59pc of respondents believe that reduced family incomes have had a "significant detrimental impact" on parents' capacity to buy schoolbooks and classroom materials.
• 62pc reported disciplinary and behavioural issues as a growing problem.
• 51pc of respondents believe that reduced funding levels have had a moderate to significant impact on providing support for children with special needs.
TUI education officer Bernie Judge described how teachers were now reluctant to organise extra-curricular activities or field trips as many families cannot afford to cover the cost.
She said: "Schools used to sponsor students or add to the amount needed when parents were unable to pay for these activities. But now there are so many students who can't afford it that schools have less capacity to cover the costs."
Ms Judge also said fewer parents were paying voluntary contributions as this was "simply not an option any more".
She described the current situation, which is also affecting schools in traditionally affluent areas, as a "new departure", adding: "We're seeing families struggling where two parents have lost jobs.
"Anecdotally, we know it affects not just books and supplies but everything. Teachers can see how it is even affecting the students' dietary requirements and quality of life."
Meanwhile, delegates gathered for the last day of the TUI conference in Wexford town yesterday.
TUI president Bernie said the loss of year heads and positions of responsibility had "severely damaged" the supports for marginalised students.
"Principals and teachers are doing everything they can to paper over the cracks and provide a quality frontline service but this will be severely diminished in the event of further attacks on the system."