Secondary school costs soaring, says Barnardos
The cost of sending a child to secondary school has soared to nearly 800 euro, a leading children's charity has revealed.
Barnardos accused the Government of making parents pay for Ireland's "supposedly free" education through books, uniforms, shoes, photocopying and so-called voluntary contributions.
Charity chief executive Fergus Finlay said 103.2 million euro would cover the cost of the extras which hard-pressed families are forced into debt for.
"It is time we said enough is enough. It is very clear our education system is underfunded and under-resourced and there is an unfair expectation that parents will plug the gaps," he said.
The Barnardos figures showed some improvements on costs in the last 10 years with books for primary schools not as expensive as they were in 2005.
But a further breakdown showed parents paying 100 euro each for uniforms and voluntary contributions for kids in senior infants; 115 euro for a uniform for a child in 4th Class; and 90 euro for the same child for both books and the voluntary contribution.
The prices escalate for secondary school with books to cost 325 euro, the voluntary contribution to hit 150 euro and the uniform 195 euro.
Barnardos spoke to 1,400 parents to build a picture of the cost of Ireland's free education and the impact it has on the lives of a family.
The total for a child going to senior infants this year is 365 euro; for a child in 4th Class it is 390 euro; and for a child going to secondary school it is 785 euro.
Anonymous reports from mothers and fathers were posted by the charity along with the statistics.
One single mother-of-two on jobseekers' payment of 247.60 euro said: "The price of sending kids back to school is ridiculous.
"It's financially impossible for families like mine, the burden is just too much to have to deal with - going to bed worrying about it, waking up worrying about it, worrying about it all through the day, trying to work out which bill do I miss this week to buy a book or skirt.
"Every day is like this for me and I'm pretty certain many other families."
Another parent hit out at schools requesting voluntary contributions.
"We didn't have money to buy food for a few days last year because of the contribution - even at that, we couldn't afford to pay it all.
"We got letters, texts and emails asking for the rest of the money for weeks after, we were afraid every day that our son was going to be singled out over it and we ended up selling some of our things to pay it off for fear that he would suffer over it."
The Barnardos report follows worrying figures on back-to-school debt and borrowing from the Irish League of Credit Unions last month which put the average spend for primary school kids at 816 euro and 1,313 euro for secondary.
Barnardos said parents are routinely not paying bills, drastically reducing spending on food and getting into debt every summer.
June Tinsley, the charity's head of advocacy, said the same complaints are repeated each year including textbooks change, new editions come out and workbooks are only being used once.
"Too many families are buckling under the pressure, which hurts parents and children," she said.