Parents pay €1,200 a year to put children though secondary school

Cost of return to school will result in third of parents getting into debt, survey suggests

Parents sending children to non fee-paying secondary schools will spend more than €1,200 this year, while primary school-going children will cost their parents almost €600, a survey published on Thursday suggests.

The financial pressure of back-to-school time will see more than a third of parents with children in secondary school get into debt, with the cost of grinds said to be the largest financial burden, according to the research from Zurich Life Assurance.

The cost of primary school education is 42 per cent higher than parents expect while the cost of secondary school education comes in 21 per cent above parents’ expectations.

The cost per child of nearly all primary school expense categories has increased, with parents now paying €88 for books, €71 for uniforms, €64 for footwear and €52 for supplies annually.


The highest spend during the primary school year was extra-curricular activities, which cost on average €191 per child per year. The highest spend items during the secondary school year were grinds at €279 and lunch at €177.

In total, parents estimate that it costs €584 per year to send a child to primary school, and €1,236 per year for secondary school.


The financial pressure to cover the costs of their children’s education has resulted in 19 per cent of primary school parents and 34 per cent of secondary school parents falling into debt. The average debt for parents borrowing to cover secondary school costs was put at €794 and €385 for parents of primary school children.

The number of parents who have taken out loans to cover the cost of primary school education is put at 17 per cent compared with 9 per cent last year. And the number of parents taking out loans to cover the cost of secondary school has also gone up – almost one in three families now rely on loans to help finance their children’s education.

"The findings of this year's research show that the cost of primary and secondary education is significantly higher than parents expect and, more than ever, families are taking on debt to finance their children's schooling," said Zurich Life's Jonathan Daly. "It is unsustainable for families to rely on borrowing to fund their children's future and the most effective solution against this is rigorous early financial planning."

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast