Commenting on the latest figures of back to school costs issued by Barnardos, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has said parents continue to struggle financially under the burden of so-called ‘free education’.
Teachta Brady said:
“There is no such thing as free education. The Government may not be aware of this but parents, who are the ones actually paying, are only too well aware.
“The annual Back to School costs survey carried out by Barnardos is evidence of this fact. Parents right around the country are feeling enormous pressure preparing for this time of year.
“The findings of the survey show that to send one child to primary school costs €340 and to secondary school costs €775. These costs are huge and for parents with more than one child of school going age these costs are crippling.
“It is not about buying a school uniform and school books and that’s the end of it. There are additional costs that add to this and they vary from one school to another such as the use of iPads or the emphasis placed on voluntary contributions.
“The Government are driving people further and further into debt and into the arms of loan sharks who charge massive interest rates. With that, the Government are also placing huge pressure on voluntary organisations such as St. Vincent de Paul to assist families with additional costs. These organisations are left to spend millions annually to fill the gap left by Government cuts.
“I have asked the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar during Priority Questions to increase the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance as one measure to help struggling families at this time of year. He gave no commitment but with Budget 2017 approaching pressure needs to be put on the Minister and Government TDs to ensure that the Budget does this.
“Barnardos have said that investment by the Government of €103 million would provide all primary school books, remove the voluntary contribution and classroom resources fees, restore the capitation rates back to 2010 levels and provide free transport for those using the School Transport Scheme. This would take some of the financial strain off parents who have children starting out at primary level. It would be a start.
“The cuts made to Education by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil before them has led to these increased costs. In many cases, schools are left relying on voluntary contributions from parents year on year to help run the school.
“Sinn Féin has proposed a number of measures, including the restoration of the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance, the extension of the School Meals Programme by 15%, increased capitation to primary and secondary schools by 10% over a Dáil term and an increase in the Schools Book Grant by 30%.
“The Government need to wake up to the reality on the ground for parents and the actual costs of sending children to school in the real world. Budget 2017 must show action on these costs and not empty words.”