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Foley said she wanted to be “explicitly clear” that no fee can be charged for enrolment or continued enrolment in a school. Alamy Stock Photo

Education Minister says parents and guardians ‘cannot be compelled to pay voluntary charge’

Norma Foley called on principals to contact her department if their school was struggling to pay certain costs.

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION Norma Foley has said that no school can compel parents or guardians into making a voluntary contribution to the school.

Foley was responding to a report published by St Vincent de Paul that indicated parents feel under pressure to pay the charge, with 87% responding to say they had to cut back or delay their spending in order to do so.

Voluntary contribution charges are payments made by parents towards schools to cover costs that the school incurs outside of its funding.

The voluntary contributions ranged from €30 to €550 per child, with an average of €140 per child across all school types.

Responding to the findings, Foley said she wanted to be “explicitly clear” that no fee can be charged for enrolment or continued enrolment in a school.

“I want to acknowledge that voluntary contributions are just that – they’re voluntary by their nature,” she told reporters this afternoon.

“I really, really want to be very clear that no parents, no guardian can be compelled to make a voluntary contribution.

“That is not appropriate and that is not right.

“I think we’re very focused on providing additional supports into schools in the last while. €220 million is now being paid out in terms of capitation and in addition to that €220 million, €90 million is going into our schools this year, specifically to address energy issues within a school.”

She said that this represented a 7.5% increase in capitation.

She added: “We’ve rolled out other measures for our schools, whether it’s the free school books, whether it’s initiatives in terms of counselling, whether it’s 150,000 young people availing of free school transport, but I also acknowledge that schools may feel pressurised in certain areas and have particular difficulties or challenges, and I want to acknowledge the great work that schools do every single day.

“But if there is an issue, I would say to principals, I would ask you to make direct contact with the department, we do have a facility within the department, we have a dedicated unit – the (Financial Support Services Unit) – who will work on a one-to-one basis with the school if they have specific challenges in terms of funding of the school.”

She said: “There can be no compelling of parents or guardians to make a contribution to the running of the school. Absolutely none.”

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