FG accuses publishers of ripping off parents

 

FINE GAEL has accused some of Ireland’s biggest educational publishers of ripping off parents by increasing the price of new school books when there is deflation in the economy.

A survey carried out by the party found CJ Fallon had increased the price of books at primary school level by 8 per cent and Gill MacMillan by 2 per cent. At post-primary level, Gill MacMillan increased prices by 4 per cent, the party said.

The figures are disputed by the publishers concerned.

Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes said there was “no excuse and no justification” for any educational book publisher to increase prices and it was happening when parents faced a “double-whammy” with cuts in the school books’ grant.

The Fine Gael survey was based on an analysis of the catalogues of some of the major educational publishers. The average price of a survey of 187 books published by CJ Fallon was €7.62 in 2008 and €8.26 for 189 books in 2009, an increase of 8 per cent.

In the case of Gill MacMillan, a survey of 122 books at post-primary level showed an average price of €19.31. This year a survey of 129 books revealed the average price to be €20.21, an increase of 4.2 per cent.

The other large publisher, Folans, showed a slight increase of 1 per cent for primary-level books and 0.5 per cent for second-level books. The Education Company, showed a decrease of 3 per cent at primary level and a freezing of prices at secondary level.

Mr Hayes praised publishers for freezing or lowering prices, but accused those who had put them up as “treating hard-pressed parents as little more than cash cows”. He said there was a need for an independent review of the cost of books carried out by the Department of Education.

He blamed the Government for allowing a free-market approach to the price of schoolbooks.

“The department could say tomorrow that there should be a unilateral freeze and there will be no new books into the system irrespective of curricular changes for three years and we are doing this as a means to cut costs,” he said.

He said the responsibilities was also with schools and teachers to adopt a common sense approach to changing text books.

“The real bugbear for parents is that if you have a couple of kids who are a few years apart in the same school, they cannot use those books to be handed down one to the other.”

A Department of Education spokesman said school authorities have been advised that textbooks should only be changed to the extent that was “absolutely necessary”.

CJ Fallon rejected the claim that its books’ prices had risen by 8 per cent and said the correct figure was 2 per cent across the primary school book range. A Gill MacMillan spokesman said it also did not accept the figures put forward by Fine Gael. “Some of our prices have been frozen, some have decreased and there has been no price increase of any kind since January 2009,” he said.