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Irish League of Credit Unions

Parents are spending €1,399 getting their child ready to go back to secondary school

Parents of primary school students are paying €50 less than last year, while parents of secondary school students are paying €20 more.

THERE’S BEEN AN increase in the number of parents who say that the cost of Back to School is a financial burden, from 67% in 2018 to 78% in 2019.

Parents are spending an average of €1,399 per child in getting them ready for secondary school. This is up €20 on the €1,379 being spent last year.

Parents of primary school children are however spending less; €949 this year compared to €999 last year. Among the parents of secondary school children, 83% say the back-to-school spend is a financial burden compared with 77% of parents at primary level.

The findings were revealed in a national survey of 882 parents of school children (out of a sample size of 2,338) by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU). The survey was carried out by independent market research company iReach Insights in June 2019.

While the numbers in debt over back-to-school costs remains steady at over a third (36%), parents appear to be more prudent with the debt they are running up. The average debt this year is €322 compared with €405 in 2018, a reduction of €83.

image005 ILCU ILCU

Looking at this in more detail, parents of primary school children say their average back-to-school related debt is €274, down from €367 in 2018. At second level, parents say their average debt is €357, down from €443 last year.

Of those parents in debt, almost a quarter (24%) say they have turned to a moneylender. While this figure is worrying, it is a 3% drop since last year. The average amount borrowed from moneylenders has also fallen slightly from €450 last year, to €439 this year.

image006 ILCU ILCU

Costs continue to be parents’ main concern at back to school time. Half of parents say it’s their biggest worry, up 4% on last year. One third (33%) say they will be forced to deny their children certain school items because they can’t afford them. This is up from 31% last year.

To manage their finances, 68% will cut out extracurricular activities and 30% won’t spend on school trips. Another 29% say new gym gear will get the cut while, for 22%, new shoes will be off the school list. This last item however is down considerably from the 42% in 2018.

An increasing number of parents say they are under pressure to buy branded goods. Overall, 54% said they were feeling this pressure, compared with 43% last year.

Paul Bailey, head of communications at ICLU said, “We are calling on the government to take more affirmative action to tackle the rising costs of sending children back to school. The recommendations outlined in the Joint Committee on Education and Skill’s report, if taken on board, will go a long way to easing this annual burden on parents.”

The most expensive item at second level was again books, coming in at €220 compared with €200 last year. Uniforms/clothing was next on the list at €200, up from €179 last year. School trips are set to cost parents €190 this year, compared with €159 last year.

Almost three quarters of parents (74%) say schools are not doing enough to keep costs down, which is up from 69% last year. Considerably more secondary school parents (80%) than primary school parents (70%) feel this way.

When asked how schools could do more to help parents, 37% said reducing the price of books or introducing a book rental scheme. 21% said the option of generic uniforms or even free uniforms would help.

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