TDs call for schools to ban costly uniforms
Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection report recommends curbing excessive school costs
Schools should be banned from insisting students wear expensive crested uniforms, according to a new report
Schools should be banned from insisting students wear expensive crested uniforms, workbooks should be outlawed and voluntary contributions should be “greatly discouraged, if not completely prohibited”, according to an Oireachtas committee report on the cost of education to be published next week.
The Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection report, which has been compiled by Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, also calls for the introduction of a universal schoolbook rental scheme and sharply criticises school patrons for what it says is “a vacuum of leadership” when it comes to minimising education costs.
‘Culture of competition’
It says charging of fees for enrolment or application for enrolment should be stopped. It warns that a “culture of competition” is contributing to the problem of prohibitive costs as neighbouring schools offer students increasingly lavish foreign trips and extra-curricular activities to appear more attractive to would-be applicants.
The report warns that children whose parents struggle to pay for extra-curricular activities or voluntary contribution are stigmatised, and says the relationship between parents and their child’s school “should be educational, not financial”.
It points out that where “tension exists between the home and school life due to financial ‘requests’, the parent-teacher relationship can be severely damaged”.
It says it is “alarming to learn that most school patrons feel they have no role to play in overseeing uniform, textbook or voluntary contribution policies” in their own schools, and calls on patron bodies “to show much greater leadership. . . and to issue directives and strict guidelines to their schools.”.
It says schools are under pressure to keep their enrolment numbers high and “engage in a quasi-bidding war attempting to offer more extra-curricular activities or better resources” which parents have to pay for.
Extra-curricular activities are often optional in name only, it says and and present hidden costs to parents. The committee wants guidelines to be offered by the Department of Education as to what extra-curricular activities have educational merit and calls for greater scrutiny of foreign trips.
It believes local authorities should be given the autonomy to use funds from the local property tax to support book-rental schemes for primary schools through their local libraries, and wants “an entirely free schoolbook system” to be introduced within five years.