‘It has gone beyond crazy’: Large majority of parents worry about back-to-school costs amid cost-of-living crisis

Parents will have to dip into savings, take out a loan or use credit card to cover the costs, survey finds

More than two-thirds of primary school parents and three-quarters of secondary parents worry about covering back-to-school costs this year, a survey from children’s charity Barnardos shows.

The annual survey found that a large majority of parents are concerned about meeting the costs of returning to school after the summer, with most finding it harder as a result of recent cost-of-living measures, including the increased cost of fuel in transporting children to school in rural areas.

The charity said the survey of more than 1,100 parents showed that families were finding themselves under considerable financial pressure to meet these higher costs, with some having to take “worrying measures” to meet them.

Barnardos back to school

One in five parents said they would have to use savings, while 13 per cent of primary and 19 per cent of secondary school parents will either have to get a loan or need to use a credit card.


A further 9 per cent of primary and 18 per cent of secondary school parents said they would have to borrow money from friends and family to cover the back-to-school costs.

“Barnardos believes that no parent should face financial pressure and struggles in trying to meet what are essential costs for their children’s education. No child should feel any anxiety about their parents’ ability to meet school costs,” said the charity’s chief executive Suzanne Connolly.

The survey showed a wide range of back-to-school costs for students going into different classes: the costs for a pupil in fourth class in primary school averaged €424, while the costs for a first-year student in secondary school were €814 and a sixth-year student were €722.

The Government has increased the back-to-school allowance this year to €100 to help families but Barnardos is calling for increased measures in the budget in September.

The charity wants the Government to provide free schoolbooks to all children, ensure all schools allow an option for an affordable uniform, maintain the recent increase in the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance, and end voluntary contributions requested by schools.

The survey found that 65 per cent of primary school parents and 73 per cent of secondary school parents were being asked to pay voluntary contributions by their schools.

The average sums sought were €81 for primary schools and €124 for secondary school. Some 70 per cent of parents said they felt that the request for a payment was not voluntary.

The survey found uniforms cost on average €117 for primary pupils and €194 for secondary students, while schoolbooks and other fees cost €110 for primary pupils and €207 for secondary.

Spending on digital tools averaged €46 for primary and €121 for secondary students.

One secondary school parent quoted in the Barnardos report whose name was not given said they could not afford back-to-school costs “without having to miss meals to cover it”.

“God knows how we’ll heat the house come winter,” the parent said.

“Living in a rural area, it’s not just the school costs; it’s also the huge costs of transporting children to school,” a mother of four named Sarah told the charity.

“Fuel, tax, insurance, the living costs in the home of heating and food and electricity. We have no other choices to get children to school. It has gone beyond crazy at the cost of living these days. The Government need to spend time in the real world.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times