Government 'out of touch' with cost of sending children to school

By Noel Baker

The Government has been accused of being “out of touch” with the financial strain being experienced by households with schoolchildren.

Families are weighed down with the costs of sending their children to school, according to a new study.

The new Barnardos’ School Costs Survey indicates that while some savings have been made by parents compared with a year ago, in other examples the costs actually increased.

For example, based on the survey results the typical total cost of clothing and footwear for a senior infants pupil increased by €15 and €10, respectively.

Overall, because of falls in the typical cost of schoolbooks and the voluntary contribution, the average total cost of sending a senior infants pupil back to school was €345 — €5 cheaper than last year.

The typical total cost of sending a 4th class pupil to school fell €20 in a year to €380, despite a €25 rise in the typical voluntary contribution. The typical cost of schoolbooks here fell from €120 last year to €85 this year.

Sending a first-year pupil to school cost an average of €735 — €50 less than last year.

Here, clothing costs fell €75 to €200, while the cost of schoolbooks actually increased by €25 to €300, the single biggest expense across all three age groups.

The survey result do not include extra costs such as school bag, trainers and extra-curricular activities.

There were also different experiences among parents when it came to efforts by the school to limit costs.

While 38% of parents with primary school pupils felt there was no change in uniform costs, another 38% felt prices had increased by up to €50.

More than 70% of parents with primary age children and 61% of those with children in secondary school said the school had not changed uniform in the past three years.

The first year of secondary school is the most expensive for parents and schoolbooks were the costliest item, despite a growth in the number of book rental and e-book initiatives.

Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said while many efforts had been made to reduce costs they were "nowhere near enough", with many parents at "breaking point".

"School costs are pushing parents to the pin of their collar," he said. "Costs far outstrip the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance rates, meaning those most at-risk of poverty are most likely to be pushed into further difficulty."

Barnardos said more investment was needed generally in education and specifically at primary level.

It is the ninth year the charity has conducted the survey.

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