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How much does it cost you to send your child to school?

Barnardos wants parents to help them get the big picture.

Image: child school shoes via Shutterstock

WHILE BASIC EDUCATION is meant to be free in Ireland, any parent or guardian will be aware that indirect costs can mean September leaves a large hole in a household budget.

Children’s charity Barnardos wants parents to share their experiences of the financial burden of education. The answers – which will be treated in confidence – will be used to compile the organisation’s eighth annual School Costs Survey. Last year, almost 1,000 parents contributed to the study with comments like this relating the reality:

We cut back on food and let other bills go unpaid to ensure children have what they need for school… We’re living on the edge all the time. So much for free education.

The survey is then presented to policy makers and Government in order to paint a full picture of the resources needed to educate Ireland’s minors in the hope that they will take it into account when preparing budgets.

Last year’s report – which you can read in full here - found that the average basic cost of sending a child aged 10 into 4th class, for example, was €390; for a child aged 12 entering secondary school, it was €770. The costs outlined did not include sports equipment, school bag, transport costs or extracurricular activities.

It might be worth individual schools studying the report too – there are practical suggestions from parents on how costs could be cut.

For example, 72 per cent of the parents surveyed had to buy specific uniforms with the school crest on them, meaning they had to purchase from particular retailers. A generic uniform in a set colour would allow parents a wider choice of retailers to choose from, allowing them to secure the best value for money.

In another example, Barnardos heard parents’ complaints that small changes in set textbooks from year to year meant that siblings, even those close in age, could not hand down books to each other. Not all schools have book rental schemes.

The issue of parents being asked for a ‘voluntary’ contribution that isn’t so ‘voluntary’ also cropped up:

Voluntary contribution is not voluntary because the kids that do not pay get a different coloured letter a few months later to remind us to pay, so everyone knows we haven’t paid and it is very embarrassing for the children.

If you feel your experiences could add to this year’s survey, you can click on this link to access it online.

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