Pricewatch: Readers’ queries

This week’s concerns relate to voluntary school contributions, Irish Water, and damage to an Opel

For years, the National Parents Council has waged an unsuccessful war against voluntary contributions

For years, the National Parents Council has waged an unsuccessful war against voluntary contributions

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 01:00

A dilemma about voluntary school contributions

A reader from Dublin contacted us with a problem that will resonate with many parents in the coming weeks. “I know that the schools have hardly closed, but already I am dreading back to school because of the cost,” she writes.

She has two children in primary school and one starting secondary school, and says she “will need to come up with over €1,000 before the beginning of September to have them kitted out. The voluntary contributions alone will cost nearly €500. I know there’s nothing you can do about most of the costs, but do you think I should just not pay the voluntary contribution? I don’t want my children singled out, particularly not the one starting secondary.”

It is a big problem. A survey published by Barnados last month found that 65 per cent of parents of primary school pupils and 76 per cent of parents of secondary school pupils had been asked for a voluntary contribution, with significant variations in the amount sought. Most primary schools sought €50 from parents, although 20 per cent asked for a donation of €100-€150.

For years, the National Parents Council has campaigned to bring the cost of education down and has waged an entirely unsuccessful war against voluntary contributions, which it describes as “a financial nightmare”. It has asked schools to set up funding committees to look at other options instead of passing the cost of funding shortfalls on to parents. While some schools are proactive, others appear to be at ease with the status quo.

Our best advice to parents who are struggling to pay the contribution is to talk to the school. Times have changed, and there is no shame attached to financial difficulties. If you are concerned that your child will be singled out, talk to the school, explain the situation and maybe suggest you pay the contribution later in the year when the worst impact of the back-to-school costs have been dealt with.


Whose leak is it anyway? Questions for Irish Water

“We have had a leak outside our home since 2006,” writes Lorraine Curran from Dublin. “We had hoped that the introduction of water meters might bring Irish Water to repair the leak. However, yesterday Irish Water phoned to say that the area we live in will not have water meters installed. Instead, estimated bills will be issued,” she says.

Her family has a shared water supply with the house next door. “There are two of us in our home. Next door are a couple, a 17-year-old and a four-month-old baby. Clearly our water consumption will be very different,” she writes.

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