The new term is slowly creeping upon us and as usual, children’s charity Barnardos offer an insight into how much it costs to send our little ones off to school with this year’s revelations showing ‘45 per cent of parents are forgoing other bills or cutting back on daily expenses’ in order to make ends meet. In addition, the Irish League of Credit Unions’ survey found a quarter of parents will have to deny their children some basic school items this year.
While any parent will tell you these facts are nothing new – because it’s commonplace for most households to experience the negative impact those back to school costs have on their family’s budget – they’ll also tell you when you have children you have to feed, clothe and shod them, (the basic essentials) and you’ve got to educate them. But, given every child in Ireland is entitled to avail of free, state-run primary and secondary school education you’d imagine the pressures of finding funding for school books would be tackled by our Government.
However, in the absence of any meaningful intervention by our leaders, parents are left stressing and kids are suffering, so we’ve got a few tips that might help curb the costs. Lobby your board of management to drop the school-specific uniforms and instead introduce generic ones. This may be easier to do at primary level.
Purchase whatever school clothing items you can at the local supermarket and make sure your child respects and takes care of them. Have them remove their uniform and hang it up neatly when they arrive home. A Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance scheme (BSCFA) is in place for the academic year. It opened for applications on 1st of June but it doesn’t close until 30th of September. For a list of criteria regarding families who may qualify for funding, log onto www.citizensinformation.ie. You can download an application form under their ‘where to apply’ heading on the same page.
If you’ve got an account at your local credit union, it’s definitely worth approaching them for a low interest loan. Your credit union staff, many of whom are parents themselves, will understand the financial stress families are facing. They’ll be sympathetic and help you tailor a payment plan that’s attainable and one that best suits your specific needs.
Because successive governments typically under-invest in our schools, many of them are struggling, meaning they request a voluntary contribution from families. Don’t fall victim to what in many cases has been deemed heavy-handed demands by some schools. A ‘voluntary’ contribution means it’s your right to opt out. (This is not the case for fee-paying schools). If any parent feels they’re being forced into making a voluntary contribution to their child’s school, they should report the incident to Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his department office at Ph: 01-8892335 and request they investigate your allegations.