News & Media

Labour launches plan to tackle back to school costs

13 August 2019

Statement by Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Spokesperson on Education and Skills, Gaeilge and the Gaeltacht

Launching the Labour Party’s proposals on tackling back to school costs, Labour Party Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has said the Government aren’t doing enough to lower the costs associated with going back to school.

Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“We know that parents are under pressure to ensure children are ready to head back to school. Before the school term even ends many parents are inundated with book lists and requests for “voluntary” contributions to be paid.

“It is grossly unfair to put parents in a position where there are financial blocks put in the way of their children’s education. Children have a right to free and fair access to education under the Constitution.

“According to Barnardos Ireland’s annual ‘School Costs’ survey from 2019, 67% of primary school parents are asked for a voluntary contribution to help fund schools.

“Given that our Constitution specifically provides for free primary education for our children, this is an outrageous situation, and is becoming an increasing burden for numerous families, many of whom are already struggling with day to day living costs, including high rents. Labour has introduced legislation to ban the practice of schools soliciting direct donations in any way that substitutes for, or is in effect, the imposition of fee for access to education. We are calling on the Government to ensure that this legislation passes through both Houses of the Oireachtas.

“In the upcoming Budget, the Government can end the practice of paying for school books. Labour proposes to introduce a Free Schoolbooks Scheme to be extended to all primary schools immediately, and to be extended to all secondary schools in two years' time. The Free Schoolbooks Scheme will be funded through general taxation. This will form a substantial part of our pre-budget submission and will be delivered if Labour are returned to government.

“One of the major costs for parents every summer is providing suitable clothes or uniforms, shoes and other necessities when their children return to school in September. The State currently provides a means tested Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. This provides a payment of €125 for children between 4 and 12, and €250 for children aged 12 to 18, costing €49.5m in 2018. The Labour Party is proposing to make this a universal payment to all parents in July 2020 to alleviate those costs.

“If the Minister for Education has the political will to curtail the spiralling cost of back to school and is willing to commit to free education for all, I have no doubt he would find broad support across the political spectrum. Parents and children deserve better than this, and it is time for the government to act.”

ENDS

The policy document is available here: https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/tackling_back_to_school_costs_2019.pdf