Diarmaid Ferriter: What ever happened to free education in Ireland?
Ireland has a long established ‘educational market’ with middle and upper classes free to migrate to private service provision to make up for deficits in the public system
Max Woods and Emily Moore from Kildare on their first day of junior infants at the Kildare Town Educate Together National School in Kildare. Photograph: Alan Betson
In recent years the chorus decrying back to school costs has grown louder. With much justification, a range of charities, parents’ groups and the Irish League of Credit Unions have highlighted not just the multiple overt and hidden costs but the invidious practice of pressurising parents to pay a substantial contribution to the school even though it is supposed to be voluntary.
It has frequently been highlighted that back to school costs, not including the “voluntary” payment, average €340 for sending one child to a non fee-paying primary school in Ireland and €775 for a secondary school, and that is before the cost of extra-curricular activities are factored in. It is also widely recognised that the Department of Social Protection’s back to school clothing and footwear allowances – worth between €125 (for a child up to the age of 11) and €250 for older children – are woefully inadequate.