Gary Gannon TD

We need to make primary and secondary school education genuinely free

An increase in the number of families struggling to pay back-to-school costs underscores the depths of the cost-of-living crisis, according to Social Democrats Education Spokesperson Gary Gannon.

Deputy Gannon was responding to a new study from the Irish League of Credit Unions which found nearly 30pc of parents are going into debt to pay back-to-school costs.

“Back-to-school costs are a huge financial burden every year. But this year, in particular, high costs are putting parents under immense pressure as they struggle to pay the exorbitant costs associated with children going back to school.

“Back-to-school costs for secondary school students are now more than €1,500 while the figure for primary school is nearly €1,200. These costs are unsustainable – and unnecessary.

“I welcome the government’s announcement that it will increase the Back to School allowance by €100 per child – but this should have happened long ago. The current Back to School allowance was paid at a higher rate in 2007, 15 years ago, so it has long been woefully inadequate.

“The expansion of the School Meals programme, and the suspension of school transport costs, will also provide welcome relief for parents.

“What we need to do now is make primary and secondary school education genuinely free. This means ensuring parents do not have to pay so-called voluntary contributions; providing schools with adequate capitation grants and classroom resources; removing fees for school books and uniforms; and making school transport permanently free.

“Doing this would cost €236m – just 2.5pc of the overall education budget – and it would benefit every family with school-going children. This is a relatively small investment which would have a hugely outsized positive impact and ensure that back to school costs do not cause anxiety or plunge families into debt.”

6 July, 2022


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