The high costs of sending children to school need to be lifted so that parents do not have to use money earmarked for household bills, the Social Democrats said today.

Party co-leader Róisín Shortall TD was commenting on a survey published today which found that 72 per cent of parents feel the back to school spend is a financial burden.

More than a quarter of parents in the survey commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions said back to school costs will impact negatively on household bills. One in four parents said they will deny their children the likes of extracurricular activities, new shoes or school trips in order to meet the costs.

According to the survey, the average return to school spend is €1,209 per child over the cost of the school year. For primary school children, the annual spend is €1,048, the survey finds, while for secondary school children the figure is €1,400. The survey includes expenditures for school lunches, books, uniforms and extracurricular activities.

Deputy Shortall said:

“Many parents are clearly struggling to find funds for books, lunches, uniforms, school trips, after school activities and grinds. For some parents, it means robbing Peter to pay Paul – meeting back to school costs means they struggle with household bills or rely in credit cards and, at worst, turn to money lenders.

“This pressure could be relieved if we invested in school books schemes, transport and the running of schools. We need to also restore school capitation rates back to 2010 levels so that schools no longer feel the need to ask parents for so-called ‘voluntary contributions’. Barnardos have costed these measures at €103.2m in a full year at primary level. We believe that this kind of investment would be money well spent in the future of our children and would do a lot to lift the financial burden on parents.

“Our Constitution says that the State will provide free primary education – yet the costs many parents face today shows that we are failing children and families when it comes to this most basic and fundamental provision.”

ENDS