Education Unlocks Children’s Potential – All Children Should Have a Key

01 Aug 2017 in Press Releases, Advocacy, Featured, Schools, Parenting

Barnardos’ Annual School Costs Survey has found once more, that parents are bearing the brunt of an underfunded education system. There remains a constant expectation that parents will prop up the educational system by having to buy the essentials required for their children to complete the curriculum i.e. books, classroom resources, stationery and voluntary contributions.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said, “This year over 1,800 parents took the Barnardos’ School Costs Survey. Parents are yet again stressed and over-burdened by back to school costs. It affects so many families, not just those on low incomes.

“The impact of these mounting costs mean many parents are forgoing other bills, cutting back on daily expenses or ending up in debt in order to ensure their children have all they need for the new school year.”

See the Infographic

The survey found:

  • The impact of school costs means 45% of parents had to forgo other bills or cut back on daily expenses.
  • Parents of primary school pupils pay on average between €50 and €100 on books while one-fifth (20%) of parents of secondary school pupils pay in excess of €300.
  • Generic school uniforms are more common at primary level than secondary level. Parents spend on average €95 on school specific uniforms at primary level and between €150 and €200 for them at secondary level.
  • Fewer parents are being asked to pay a voluntary contribution this year but significantly more parents are being asked to pay the mandatory classroom resources fees.

Many parents were aware of the Minister’s circular (issued in April 2017) to schools to take a more proactive approach in reducing the burden of costs on parents and were disappointed not to have felt any benefit this year. Again some schools were more proactive than others and subsequently this variation across schools is a major source of frustration for parents. The inaction by schools was often seen as a result of lack of funding by the Government to adequately resource the running of the school and thereby passing on some of the savings to the parents.

“Books should be provided free to students, and there should be no examination fees. Schools expect too much support from parents through fundraising etc, many parents are already hard pressed. The State should be providing all that is needed in order for a school to function successfully instead of making the school go to the parents.”

Parent, Barnardos School Costs Survey 2017

Ms. Tinsley, concluded, “Education unlocks potential but the State is denying many children the key because it is failing to see its fundamental role in ensuring the education system is adequately funded to ensure all children have what they need to learn the curriculum. No other public service has to subsidise their funding to keep the show on the road, so why should the Department of Education expect schools to have to undertake extensive fundraising activities from parents and staff to fund necessities? Budget 2018 must take the first step towards making education free for all children by providing free books for all pupils in primary school.”


Notes to editors:

Read our School Costs Survey 2017 Briefing Paper

Read our School Costs 2017 Factsheet

View our School Costs 2017 Infographic

Average costs

Senior Infants pupil

4th Class pupil

1st Year Pupil













School Books








Classroom resources




Voluntary contribution








Total * in 2016




Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance





Free education

  • Uphold a child’s constitutional right to free primary education by committing in Budget 2018 to invest an extra €103.2m annually to make it reality for all children, this can be phased in over a three year period beginning with investing the €20m to provide free school books for all.
  • Commit to investing €126.9m annually to make secondary education free for all children once free primary education has been achieved.

Other recommendations

  • Ensure school’s Board of Managements adherence to the Department of Education circular re school uniform policy to take tangible measures to reduce the costs on parents.
  • Restore the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance back to the 2010 rates of €200 for a primary school pupil and €305 for a secondary school pupil. This can be introduced incrementally with a first phase increase of €50 per child at a cost of €14m in Budget 2018.
  • Synchronise the income thresholds so all family types and all those in receipt of Family Income Supplement are eligible for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.
  • Follow the EU Commission proposal to synchronise tax regimes on digital and print materials by applying a 0% to e-textbooks.