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Minister has power to reduce back-to-school costs –O’Brien

2 August, 2013 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

The insistence of education minister, Ruairí Quinn, that he cannot do more to reduce the back-to-school costs faced by parents has been rubbished by Sinn Féin Cork North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien.

“It is simply not good enough,” Deputy O’Brien said, “that Minister Quinn insists it is down to parents to lobby schools so that they are forced to introduce more affordable ways of paying for school uniforms and text books.

“It is true that each School Board of Management is responsible for matters of school policy and governance. They are also responsible to the school patron and ultimately, to the Minister for Education.

“Yet Minister Quinn has repeatedly stated that he has no statutory power to compel schools to adopt any particular policy regarding school uniforms despite the fact that he is permitted, under the 1998 Education Act to issue recommendations on this (or any relevant) issue.

“For example, this was done in 2008 in relation to school uniforms when the then Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Integration Policy jointly agreed recommendations on school uniforms.

“These recommendations were issued following extensive consultation with schools, management bodies and others and stipulated that whilst uniform policy was left for schools there should be meaningful engagement with the wider the school community when drawing up uniform policy.

“It is therefore possible for the Minister to intervene directly with school boards of management on important issues such as back-to-school costs.

“When we consider the findings of the Barnardos Back to School survey, which shows that cost to parents when clothing and equipping a child is on average €400 for a fourth-class pupil and almost €800 for a child starting second level, then he needs to act immediately.

“Empty rhetoric is simply not good enough at a time when punitive back-to-school costs are adding to the financial difficulties of thousands of parents who are struggling to make ends meet at this time of crisis.”

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