The Real Cost of School 2020

This year the Barnardos’ Back to School Survey not only examined the cost of returning to school in September but also the experience of parents and children during school closures and their attitudes about returning to school amid the global pandemic. Over 1,750 parents took part in the Barnordos’ Back to School Survey, and a further 255 children participated in our first Children and Young People’s Survey.

“The cost is a very heavy burden as only my husband is working and I am not receiving any benefits as I am unable to work for mental health reasons… There is no money for activities to do in the summer. We do without a lot to send them to school. We do feel like the working poor.”

(Secondary School Parents, Barnardos Parents’ Back to School Survey 2020)

I’m scared of getting Corona Virus and I’ll miss my mum when I’m in school but I want to go back and see my friends. I hated not knowing what we would be doing every day.

(Primary School Boy, Children and Young People’s Survey 2020)

School Costs Infographic 2020

See the 2020 infographic of results

2020 Back School Costs Infographic

2020 Survey Findings

This year’s Parents Survey found:
  • The vast majority of parents think it is important for their children to return to school, however 50% (primary) and 53% (secondary) are worried; with 16% (primary) and 21% (secondary) actually saying they would prefer if their child was not returning to school to reduce their risk of contracting Covid-19
  • Parents feel it is important their children return to school for emotional and social development (95% primary, 92% secondary); mental health (93% primary, 91% secondary) and interestingly, while still high, parents placed less emphasis on learning and development (89% primary, 86% secondary)
  • The majority of parents felt they had insufficient information about their child’s return to school and what the day would look like (73% primary, 65% secondary)
  • The majority of parents found balancing work and home-schooling difficult. A large proportion of parents (44% of primary school and 48% of secondary school parents) found managing technology for online learning difficult. Around a quarter (23%) of both primary and secondary school parents said they didn’t have ready access to the required technology for their child to learn remotely.
  • While half of parents felt that they were sent the right amount of work by their schools, over a quarter (25% primary, 31% secondary), felt they did not receive enough support from their child’s school.
  • 55% of primary school parents and 53% of secondary school parents said they incurred additional costs this year due to their child not being in school from March to June
  • The basic cost of sending a child to school in 2020, while slightly decreasing for parents of primary school children, remains substantial - the average cost of the basics needed for a senior infants pupil is €330; a fourth class pupil is €365 and a first year pupil is €735
  • A significant proportion of parents say they are either cutting back on other costs, not paying bills, or are taking loans to cover their back to school costs (41% primary), 50% secondary)
  • Of those that had to borrow, 31% took a loan from a credit union or bank, 29% used credit cards, 27% borrowed from family or friends, and most worryingly, 13% borrowed from a money lender.
The Children and Young People’s Survey found:
  • Two out of five children said they feel positively about returning to school; but one in five feel negatively. Many children and young people have mixed feelings.
  • Three quarters of respondents (74%) also said they are looking forward to seeing their teachers, but most children and young people (70%) are not looking forward to homework.
  • Three out of five children and young people (60%) said they are worried about Covid-19 when they think of returning to school.
  • There was an even 50:50 split between those who loved having a parent as a teacher and those who did not. On learning beside siblings most children and young people felt more negatively, with 65% saying they did not enjoy trying to learn with a brother or sister.
  • 27% of children told us they did not have enough time on a computer, tablet or phone to do their work