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Quinn has "started the process" of addressing school costs

These include the cost of school books and the voluntary school fees imposed by some Irish schools.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION Ruairi Quinn has “started the process” of addressing school costs – including voluntary fees, some of which run up to €500.

In an interview with RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio show, he also addressed the cost of school books.

Saying he had met with school book publishers, he commented “I think we have started a process” and that there had been “some enquiries in the past but no action was taken by previous ministers”.

He has also met with the St Vincent de Paul.

The minister said he wanted to introduce a code of practice that would reduce editions of standard textbooks.

However, he said that “they can do much more” and that he hoped that schools would be able to buy books on a bulk basis at a wholesale price similar to what bookshops pay.

He is waiting for information back about best practice in book lending schemes in schools before he makes a blanket decision about them.

The school book scheme would have a potential start-up cost, he said, but the cost to a parent of participating in it would “be far less than what the present system is for them”.

We have to take real charge of our own costs and those costs that we ourselves control, we have to act decisively with them.

These changes would take place in time for the next school year.

The minister also said he would incentivise schools to bring forward these schemes, but could not specify what these incentives would be.

With regard to the voluntary contribution to schools and whether it is voluntary, he told Morning Ireland that he had issued a discussion document on enrolment policy for all Irish schools.

“There is pressure on 20 per cent of schools that receive more applicants than they can accommodate,” he said

He said that schools would not be allowed to ask for large fees such as €500 upfront before pupils are told whether they are accepted into the school, under the discussion document.

“It is a voluntary scheme and they cannot be punished because they don’t have the money,” he added, calling the reliance on voluntary money “a victim of the celtic tiger’s demise”.

“We are in a very difficult place and the schools are dealing with that as much as anyone else,” he said, adding that schools “are not in some ivory tower unaware of what’s going on”.

“I’m highly realistic – we have to reduce our expenditure right across the board,” he concluded. “Expenses in education are driven by an increase in pupil numbers.”

Read: Parents struggling to cope with education costs>

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