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  • Northside East

Action demanded on back-to-school costs

Tuesday, 14th August, 2018 8:00am
Action demanded on back-to-school costs

Back to school season is almost upon us. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

Action demanded on back-to-school costs

Back to school season is almost upon us. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

THE GOVERNMENT is being urged to take action on back-to-school costs after a survey found they are resulting in more than a third of families getting into debt.

An annual school costs survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) revealed that well over a third of parents in Dublin (37 percent) admitted they will have to cut items such as new shoes or gym gear from the school budget.

Of those Dublin parents in debt, almost 32 percent say they have used a moneylender in an effort to reduce school costs. Nationally the finding was 27 percent.  

However, the Department of Education and Skills said the Government is committed to tackling the costs.

Cllr Malachy Quinn, who represents the Balbriggan Local Electoral Area (LEA), described the statistics as “alarming but not surprising”.

“Every year parents face the same stress and worry,” he said.

“We are only a few short weeks away from the start of a new term and action needs to be taken on this matter.

“The Government must place educational attainment at the top of the agenda and supporting families unable to afford the back-to-school costs must be part of that.”

Cllr Quinn also hit out at the “serious delay” this year with the payment of the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance, and claimed there was no timeframe for payment from the Department of Education and Skills.  

“Also, (as) a large number of parents do not qualify for this scheme, we need to see capitation rates increased to schools but also rules around generic uniforms and book rental schemes need to be seriously looked at by the department,” he added. 

The Department of Education and Skills pointed out that it issued a circular to all schools to ensure a greater emphasis was put on reducing costs for parents. 

“The circular requires schools to do everything possible to keep costs down for parents, including the use of generic items, sew on or iron on crests,” a spokesperson told Northside People.

“This keen cost approach will be underpinned in law by the Parent and Student Charter Bill 2018. The Minister intends to shortly publish the Bill which will require schools to consult with parents on items such as school costs, and to invite feedback from parents and students.

“We have increased the Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowance by €2.1 million this year, bringing the total investment in the scheme to €49.5 million. This helps parents to meet the costs of going back to school.”

“Regarding school books, the most recent figures available indicate that 95 percent of primary schools and 68 percent of post-primary schools operate a book rental scheme.”

The spokesperson added that €16.5 million was provided last year to support book rental schemes in primary and post-primary schools.

Labour’s spokesperson on education, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, described the ILCU survey as “disappointing and very worrying”.

“Back-to-school costs are now averaging between €1,000 and €1,379 per child, which is up on last year,” said Senator Ó Ríordáin.

“This is a ludicrous state of affairs. Parents now find themselves having to take out personal loans just to cover the cost of books and basic school supplies. 

“Even more worrying is the increase of people looking to money lenders, which was the reality for one in four parents asked.

“What is most upsetting about the findings published is the impact this cost is having on children.”

Speaking about the survey, Paul Bailey, ILCU Head of Marketing and Communications, said: “Despite the current recovery of our economy, Dublin families continue to struggle to cope with the cost of sending their children to school.” 

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here