Social Democrats Spokesperson for Children, Cllr Jennifer Whitmore, has said concerted efforts must be made to reduce high back-to-school costs and relieve stress on Wicklow parents.
Cllr Whitmore was commenting on today’s annual Barnardos survey which found that parents across the country are “stressed out, overburdened and fed up” by the high cost of sending children back to school.
Cllr Whitmore said:
“It’s worrying that almost half of parents in today’s survey said they had to forgo paying bills and cut back on other costs to meet back-to-school expenses, with 14 per cent saying they would be forced to borrow to meet the expense. This shows the extent of the pressure on parents to find funds for books, lunches, uniforms, school trips, after school activities and grinds.
“Simply sending your children to school should not mean having to rob Peter to pay Paul by using income earmarked for household bills, relying on credit cards and, at worst, turning to money lenders.
“School policies should be seeking to reduce costs as much as possible. School uniforms should be as basic as they possibly can be, and it should be possible to purchase from multiple local shops so that competition can drive down costs.”
Cllr Whitmore pointed out that Barnardos has calculated it would cost an extra €103million in a full year to deliver free primary education – that’s around €185 per pupil per year – and an extra €127million for a full year in secondary education.
“The Social Democrats 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. This would mean that families would not have to cover the cost of textbooks and workbooks, and schools would not have to go looking for so-called ‘voluntary contributions’ from parents. It would also deliver free transport to people availing of the School Transport Scheme.
“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.”