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counting the cost

Back to school costs rising at secondary and primary level as 27% of parents find themselves in debt

The average debt for parents to cover back-to-school costs is €397.

MORE THAN ONE in four parents (27%) find themselves in debt to cover the costs of going back to school for their children.

According to the survey of 948 parents of school-going children by i-Reach Insights for the Irish League of Credit Unions (ICLU), the average debt for parents sending their children back to school has increased by €40 this year compared to last year. 

It comes as preparations are under way for a return to schools for the first time since the government ordered them to close in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The average debt parents find themselves in to cover the costs of going back to school is €397, with parents now spending around €1,467 per secondary school child (up €68) and €1,123 per primary school child (up €174).

Of those parents in debt, a large majority (81%) have debts of over €200 and 8% have debts in excess of €500.

The top expense for parents of primary school children is after-school care at an average of €200. For secondary school parents, the biggest expense is books at €196.

To cover the costs, 69% of parents pay for their children’s back to school supplies from their general monthly income. One in five (20%) use a credit card, which is up from 13% in 2019. A further 34% use savings, also up from 27% last year. 

Furthermore, 69% of parents believe schools don’t do enough to keep costs down.

In the context of Covid-19, 42% of parents are concerned that their children will fall behind in class as a result of home-schooling since March and over half (59%) believe there will be a mix of home schooling and classroom for the new term.

A further 23% of parents said they would struggle with returning to work if schools don’t reopen fully. 

ICLU head of communications Paul Bailey said: “The overall spend is up again this year for both primary and secondary school and it is clear that parents continually have to make sacrifices to cover costs. We have seen a staggering 71% increase, from €117 to €200, in the cost of after school care for primary school children while so called ‘voluntary’ contributions have increased by 25% to an average of €120 per child. 

It remains to be seen if schools will reopen fully in September and this brings a number of challenges for parents in trying to manage home schooling and to balance work and child care commitments. Our survey shows a substantial number of parents are concerned that they don’t have the necessary resources for home schooling, including adequate broadband, in the event of schools remaining fully or partially closed.

Earlier this month, the government said €152 million was being made available for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and the closing date to apply is 30 September.

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