Parents Hit Out At Steep School Costs in Barnardos School Cost Survey 2012

01 Aug 2012 in Press Releases, Advocacy, Featured

School Costs Survey - Results Infograph

“We cut back on food and let other bills go unpaid to ensure children have what they need for school… We’re living on the edge all the time. So much for free education.”

987 parents responding to Barnardos’ School Costs Survey 2012 have expressed frustration and anger at the continued high costs of sending children to school, as evidenced by this quote from one parent who completed the survey.

Despite findings that in some cases costs have remained stable or reduced slightly since 2011, parents continue to struggle to meet schools’ demands with increasingly stretched household incomes. Now in its 7th year, Barnardos’ survey found that on average parents are paying €355 for a child in senior infants, €390 for children in 4th class in primary school and €770 for children going into first year in secondary school. School books and uniforms continue to pose the highest cost to parents, although voluntary contributions and school transport costs also weigh heavily on parents’ budgets.

Barnardos’ CEO, Fergus Finlay, said: “Each year in Barnardos’ School Costs Survey parents express their frustration at the high cost of sending children to school. This year, however, the parents who responded to our survey are also showing real fear and concern at how they are going to make sure their children have what they need to get an education. Many parents are being forced to make very difficult choices and many are getting into debt to pay for uniforms, books and other education expenses. Concrete solutions for tackling the costs associated with sending children to school are long overdue.”

Key findings from the Survey include:

  1. For primary school children: 23% of parents are paying between €76-100 and 18% are paying €101-125 for uniforms.
  2. For secondary school children: 17% of parents are paying €150-€174, 17% are spending €175-€200 and 15% are exceeding €250 for uniforms.
  3. For primary school children: 27% of parents are paying between €76- €100 for books.
  4. For secondary school children: 37% of parents are spending over €250 for books.

Barnardos welcomed the Code of Practice agreed between educational publishers to refrain from publishing new editions last year but said that indications from the School Costs Survey were that parents are not yet seeing the impact of the Code in book lists for 2012 – 2013. Mr. Finlay said: “In 2007, 180,252 children were the beneficiaries of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. In 2011, this went up to 384,000. This increase proves the enormous pressure more families are under since the onset of the recession. Cuts to school budgets are reducing direct supports to children and mean that schools are increasingly relying on parents to make up the shortfall for day to day costs. We are jeopardising children’s futures with short term cuts that fail to create equal opportunities for all children to get the education that is their right.”

Barnardos called on the Government to look to neighbouring jurisdictions that have been operating free school book systems for children for decades. Outlining the systems in Northern Ireland and Scotland, Barnardos urged Government to adopt its proposed plan for moving Ireland gradually towards free or low cost school books for all children. This plan would allow schools to build up a full set of school books for each child over a five year period within the existing grants allocated by the Department for Education and Skills.
Mr. Finlay concluded: “We need to create a fair and sustainable education system that means all children have access to the materials they need to get the best education they can. It has never been more important for Ireland to consider the ongoing development of education for our children and young people. The future of the country depends on our ability to provide children with the tools they need to innovate, create and achieve in a global economy. We must address the deficits in the system that are squeezing family budgets and ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn and grow in our schools.”

ENDS

Note to Editors

Basic Costs for 2011 and 2012

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Child aged 6 going into senior infants in primary school

2011 Basic Costs*

2012 Basic Costs*

Clothing

100

85

Footwear

50

50

School Books

75

85

Photocopying fees

50

35

Voluntary contribution

75

100

Total*

350

355

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance

200

150

* Not including extra costs such as school bag, trainers, extra curricular activities etc

Child aged 10 going into 4th class in primary school

2011 Basic Costs*

2012 Basic Costs*

Clothing

150

110

Footwear

70

50

School Books

150

130

Stationery

50

25

Voluntary contribution

50

75

Total*

470

390

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance

200

150

* Not including extra costs such as school bag, trainers, extra curricular activities etc

Secondary School – child aged 12 entering 1st year

2011 Basic Costs*

2012 Basic Costs*

Clothing

250

275

Footwear

80

60

School Books

275

275

Stationery

50

35

Voluntary contribution

150

125

Total

805

770

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance

305

250

* Not including extra costs such as school bag, trainers, extra curricular activities etc

Barnardos’ 5 Year Plan

Barnardos believes that even within the current climate, we can make changes to improve the provision of affordable school books to all children and reduce the cost of education for parents.

Barnardos is calling on the Government to prevent further cuts to education spending and services and adopt a national policy, led by the Department of Education and Skills, under which schools will use their School Book Grant to incrementally build up a set of textbooks for all their pupils, to bring Ireland in line with good practice from Northern Ireland and Scotland. The timetable for implementation of this would be as follows:

  1. 2013 – Schools purchase two textbooks for core subjects like English and Maths for each pupil. Parents would not be asked to contribute towards this as they have to purchase the remaining items on the child’s book list.
  2. 2014 – By adhering to the Code of Practice no new editions will be issued so schools can keep the previous years textbooks for reuse and use the School Book Grant to purchase another two textbooks for each pupil. Again parents would not be asked to contribute towards this as they have to purchase the remaining items on the child’s book list.
  3. 2015 – By keeping the previous books and using the School Book Grant to purchase another two textbooks at least six subject textbooks will be available to all pupils. Parents could be asked for a nominal contribution to assist with maintenance and renewal of books.
  4. 2016 and 2017 – keep existing books and purchase new ones so that a suite of textbooks is comprehensive. Parents could be charged a nominal contribution towards upkeep of this school resource.
  5. This system can be supported through the use of additional free resources such as online learning materials for use on classroom whiteboards, photocopying worksheets and availing of public libraries where some class novels can be borrowed. In the long term these options mean that all pupils will have the required resources and books at a minimal expense to parents.

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