Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: No easy answers on back-to-school costs

Editor's Viewpoint

It is disturbing to find that, according to a recent survey, more than a third of families are finding themselves in debt due to back-to-school costs.

The survey, which was carried out by the Irish League of Credit Unions, reported that 37% of parents are in this type of debt, and well over a third - some 38% - are turning to a doorstep lender or a payday loan company for help.

According to the figures supplied, parents are being asked to spend, on average, £122 on uniforms and school clothing for primary pupils, and £168 for secondary school children.

School uniforms were meant to be great levellers, and some schools had the bright idea of reselling second hand uniforms in good condition, but clearly this is not being spread widely enough.

There are extra costs for other activities, such as school trips.

For primary pupils the average cost is £85, with the figure rising to £220 for secondary school pupils.

Such activities are important for the wider education of children, but it is unfortunate that some may be denied such experiences because their parents are hard-pressed to find the extra money required to pay for them.

One of the biggest expenditures is £114 for after school care for primary pupils, and £62 for secondary school children, while the cost for school lunches can be up to £102 and £158 respectively.

Overall, parents are paying on average £754 extra per primary school child, with the figure rising to £1,160 for those in secondary schools.

The parents have an average debt of £252 for funding primary school costs, and for the parents of secondary school children the figure is £291.

Every child, irrespective of his or her background, deserves the same educational opportunities.

But clearly there is a disparity, with some parents being unable to pay extra for other costs ranging from extracurricular activities, to transport, gym gear and additional costs.

Not surprisingly, 62% of parents say that the schools are not doing enough to keep costs down, while the schools are saying that they are doing the best they can.

There is room for more creative thinking on both sides, and a need for further prioritisation.

Ideally, children should not be penalised because their parents cannot afford certain activities.

But there are no easy solutions in these days of belt-tightening.

Belfast Telegraph

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