Books: €220, Uniforms: €200 - parents say they cannot afford back to school costs

About 78% finding costs a burden as financial hit reaches €1,399 per child at second level

The most expensive item at secondary school level was books at €220. File photograph: iStock

The most expensive item at secondary school level was books at €220. File photograph: iStock


Back-to-school costs are a financial burden for three-quarters of parents and one-third cannot afford some of the school items needed, a new survey has found.

The annual back-to-school costs survey published on Tuesday by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) has put the cost of sending a child to secondary school at €1,399, up €20 on last year.

The costs associated with primary school children has fallen slightly, down €50 to €949.

The most expensive item at second level was books at €220, compared with €200 last year. Uniforms and clothing was next at €200, up from €179 last year. School trips are set to cost parents €190 this year, compared with €159 last year.

At primary school level, extra-curricular activities continue to be the biggest spend at €159, up from €153 in 2018. Uniforms and clothing are the second most expensive item at €133, up from €128 last year, followed by books at €123 – up just €1 on last year.

One-third of those polled said they were “forced to deny their children certain school items” because they could not afford them, while 78 per cent said extra spending was burdensome, up 11 per cent on last year.

Cutting expenditure

Of those who said they would have to cut some expenditure, 68 per cent said they would cut out extracurricular activities, while 30 per cent said they would not be spending on school trips. A further 29 per cent said new gym gear would have to be cut out, while 22 per cent said new shoes would be off the school list.

The survey points to a growing demand among young people for branded goods with 54 per cent of parents saying they were coming under pressure to buy branded goods compared with 43 per cent last year.

The survey shows that the number of parents getting into debt to cover educational costs is steady at 36 per cent but the average debt has fallen by €83 to €322. Parents of primary school children say their average back-to-school related debt is €274, down from €367 in 2018. At second level, parents say their average debt is €357, down from €443 last year.

In general, parents say the biggest sacrifice they make to cover back-to-school costs is family holidays with 43 per cent saying said they would reduce such spending compared with 34 per cent last year.

Meanwhile, 31 per cent said they would cut spending on summer activities for children while 8 per cent said they would cut spending on food for the family, down from 15 per cent last year.