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Barnardos: The Real Cost of School

  • 02/08/2018
  • Author:bridgetmccall

All parents, regardless of income, find 'back to school' stressful and a drain on finances

A family in a park

This year, over 2,200 parents took the Barnardos’ School Costs Survey. The resounding message is that all parents, regardless of income, find the back to school period places a strain on their finances and causes significant stress.

The majority of parents have to either take out a loan, delay payment of other bills or take money out of savings to cover school costs. This experience is magnified for those families who struggle financially or have additional challenges. Lone parents, parents who are full time carers and families with either a parent or a child with a disability all voiced their frustration at being left to struggle with school costs.

2018 Survey Findings

The cost of sending a child to school increased in 2018 across primary and secondary: the average cost of sending a child to senior infants is €360; the average cost of sending a child to first year is €765.

More parents are going into debt: 11% of primary school parents and 21% of secondary school parents are forced to borrow money to cover school costs; the majority of the remaining either delay payment of other bills or take money out of savings.

53% of primary school parents and 54% of secondary school parents reported an increase in the cost of school books this year.

The number of parents being asked to pay a voluntary contribution has increased since last year: 67% of primary school parents have been asked for a voluntary contribution (up 11% on last year); 71% of secondary school parents have been asked to pay a contribution (up 2% on last year).

This year there has been a resounding call from parents for education to be adequately funded. Parents are tired of bridging the gap between statutory investment in education and the actual cost of sending a child to school.

One survey participant said: “How can it be free education if parents have to make up the difference between the budget the schools get from the Dept. of Education and the budget it needs to keep running? Schools should be 100% funded.”

Barnardos Ireland's call to action

In an Irish Times article published on 2 August 2018, Barnardos repeated its call on all politicians “to finally tackle the burden of school costs” and make the provision of free education a political priority.

Barnardos' Chief Executive Fergus Finlay said: “We’ve heard from parents across the country that they are tired of having to pay for so called ‘free education'. They are fed-up being forced to amass debt or fall behind on essential bills year after year in order to cover the most basic costs of their children’s education.”


If you need help

You can use the Turn2us Grants Search to find out if you might be eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your background, circumstances and needs.

If you are a single parent, you may be able to get general support from One Family Ireland

For information on any statutory help that may be available to people on low incomes, see the Citizens Ireland information: Financial help with going to school

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