With children going back to school in the coming days, it is estimated that parents are set to shell out €1,048 over the course of this year, this is up €80 on last year’s average spend. The biggest expenditure tends to be extracurricular activities, followed by school lunches, books and then uniforms.
Research shows parents of primary school children claim to spend an average of €189 on extracurricular activities per child, while secondary school parents expected to spend an average of €180, up from €137 last year.
After monthly income, savings continue to be the preferred method of funding the cost, with one-third of parents using saved funds.
A growing economy, means growing costs
Crested uniforms, high-priced books, bin-after-using workbooks, “voluntary” contributions: the majority of parents feel schools do not do enough to keep the costs of going back to school down.
Many schools are insistent on having a school crest, with 23% of parents paying between €76 and €100 for a uniform for their primary school-going children, while 18% are paying between €101 and €125. However, some schools are allowing parents to buy generic uniforms but others insist on crested uniforms from a restricted number of suppliers.
Another significant expense parents have, second to uniforms are school books. The market for school books in the State is worth €55 million. The Department of Education stumps up €15 million for books for disadvantaged schools, with parents paying the rest.
Government funding back to school schemes
One in six parents rely on the State’s back-to-school allowance, the back to school allowance is to help families on social welfare and Health Service Executive payments to meet the cost of uniforms and footwear for children who are attending school.
The scheme operates each year from the beginning of June, right up to the end of September 2017. This back to school scheme applies to all children attending school aged between 4 and 17 on or before 30th September, or aged between 18 and 22 on or before 30th September.
Furthermore, many schools operate on the capitation grant they receive from the Department of Education. This is a grant that is paid per pupil and it covers school costs such as heating, lighting, cleaning, painting and maintenance. But the capitation grant has been cut in recent years, which has made it difficult for schools to manage financially and reduce costs for parents.
Nearly half of parents have to delay household bills or cut back on daily expenses to afford their child’s school costs. One in ten of parents are forced to go into debt upon the return to school. This debt can include loans from family members, credit cards, bank loans and in some cases, money lenders, is education really free anymore?