Back to school costs are pushing a third of parents in Northern Ireland into debt, a survey has revealed.
Research commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) said 32% of parents found themselves saddled with debt, averaging £222, to cover school costs in 2020. That is up £30 on last year.
Parents were also questioned about how the pandemic had affected family income and their concerns for the new school term.
Overall, parents spent an average of £908 on primary school items - up £132 or 17% since 2019, with uniform costs rising £22 to £131.
Secondary school costs dropped slightly to £1,038, compared to the £1,067 burden on parents last year, with uniform costs increasing by £8 to £177 and school lunches costing £137.
Voluntary expenses increased dramatically by 46%, costing £120 per child in primary schools and £132 in secondary schools.
Although 54% of parents considered back to school costs a financial burden, this has dropped considerably from the 2019 figure of 72%.
Around three-quarters (72%) of parents pay for school supplies out of their monthly outcome, with 21% using a credit card and 13% drawing on savings.
Similar to last year, a small number of parents (2%) turned to a doorstop lender or payday loan company.
Cutting back on family holidays remains the biggest sacrifice to pay for school supplies at 23%, but a significant drop from 39% last year.
A total of 44% cut back spending on extracurricular activities, with a third (36%) having to deny their children new shoes.
The survey found that the impact of Covid-19 caused a drop in household income for a third of parents in Northern Ireland.
One in four (25%) said feeding children at home while home schooling was the biggest extra cost.
Most parents (64%) expect a mix of home schooling and classroom learning for the new term, while nearly half (45%) of parents said they were worried their children have fallen behind in their studies at home with many admitting they spent too much time watching TV or with mobile devices.
A further 27% of parents said returning to work would be a struggle if schools did not reopen full time.
Paul Bailey, ICLU head of communications, said it was good news that less parents felt under pressure over school costs, but urged those struggling to find cheaper forms of finance such as a credit union loan.