School costs an ‘unacceptable burden on parents’

Costs for books and uniforms can run to €350 for a primary school child and €785 for a first-year student, Barnardos reports

Parents are facing a crippling financial burden as they prepare to send their children back to school. Costs can run to almost €800 per student and the expense is causing frustration and despair, the children's charity Barnardos has said.

It was time for the Minister for Education and his department to end the current “arm’s length” approach and intervene directly to help parents to cope with the rising costs of free education, said Fergus Finlay, Barnardos’ chief executive.

The high costs of buying uniforms and books was placing an unacceptable burden on parents. "Without spending an extra penny, a commonsense approach could well cut the cost of uniforms in half and make significant inroads into the cost of books," he said, on the publication this morning of the Barnardos School Costs Survey 2013.

Average costs
The survey conducted last month included the responses of 1,104 parents. While it was not statistically representative, it gave an indication of the average costs involved in kitting a pupil out for primary and for secondary school.

The cost of crested school clothing, footwear, books and classroom resources was €350 for a typical senior infant pupil. The figure rose to €400 for fourth class and €785 for first year, the survey shows. The Government’s back-to-school allowance for a typical first year student is just €200.

This was the eighth School Costs Survey and the details left parents angry that common- sense measures costing nothing were not being introduced, Mr Finlay said.

A simple switch from having to buy jumpers with a school crest for €45 to a plain version of the same colour costing €12 would deliver immediate savings, Barnardos said.

Book rental
All schools should introduce book rental schemes, it said, adding that less than half of all schools had such a scheme.

It also called for a code of practice for school book publishers, forcing a four-year moratorium on the release of new editions.

The charity also wants to see the income limit for the back-to-school allowance being moved up to match that for the Family Income Supplement.