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Dublin: 14°C Thursday 19 May 2022

Parents report going hungry over cost of sending their children to school

Average back-to-school costs have risen at all levels since last year.

Image: Shutterstock/NadyaEugene

A NEW REPORT has revealed how spiralling costs associated with sending children to school are forcing parents to go hungry.

According to Barnardos’ annual School Costs Survey, launched today, 11% of primary parents and 21% of secondary parents are forced to borrow money to cover back-to-school costs.

The survey of more than 2,200 parents across the country found that the basic cost of sending a child to school increased at every level surveyed this year.

One anonymous parent who took part in the study said they now “worried for the future” after having to pay costs associated with sending their child to school this year.

Another revealed that they had gone hungry, given up going on family days out and had left bills unpaid just so they could afford to send their children to school.


The report revealed that the average cost of the basics needed for a senior infants pupil now stands at €360, up from €330 last year.

Parents of fourth class pupils now pay an average of €380, up from €365, while those of first year pupils pay €765, up from €745.

Over half of parents at both levels also reported an increase in the cost of school books this year, with the average price of books for primary school pupils now €95 and those for secondary school pupils now €220.

Cost of sending children to school The cost of sending a child to school has increased in 2018 across primary and secondary levels. Source: Barnardos

Meanwhile, 67% of primary parents and 71 % of secondary parents revealed they have been asked to pay a ‘voluntary’ contribution to their schools ahead of the new term.

This cost ranged from an average of €90 for a senior infants pupil, €80 for 4th class pupils, and €135 for students entering first year in secondary school.

On average, around one in six primary school parents reported their child needed a tablet or laptop for school, although 95% said that schools cover the cost of the devices.

This rose to 25% among secondary level parents, with 81% of those reporting that parents had to cover the cost of the devices.

The fees for the transport scheme remained unchanged at both levels, costing €100 for primary school pupils and €350 for a secondary school pupils.

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Free education

Commenting on the report, Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay claimed that parents across the country were tired of having to pay for what should be free education.

He said: “They are fed-up of being forced to amass debt or fall behind on essential bills year after year in order to cover the most basic costs of their children’s education.”

The charity also said that the Government had a constitutional responsibility to provide free education, and called on politicians to make the issue a political priority.

Finlay added: “Parents are not blind to this injustice, they are aware they are bridging the gap between statutory investment in education and the actual cost of sending a child to school and they’re tired of it.

“We heard loud and clear from parents this year [that] they are fed up with the fallacy that Ireland has a ‘free education’ system.

“The political body would do well to listen to them.”

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