Politics continues to fail parents on the cost of schooling – Senator Paul Gavan
Sinn Féin’s Seanad Education spokesperson Paul Gavan has today called on the government to deal with the crisis in back-to-school costs.
Today, the Education Committee heard compelling accounts from a host of NGO's, including Barnardos and St Vincent De Paul, which recounted harrowing stories in which families are being forced on a regular basis into poverty in order to send their children to primary and secondary school.
Speaking after the Committee Senator Gavan said:
“Our education system is failing families across the state. Today’s committee once again presented us with the reality of just how unequal and expensive it is to send a child to school in Ireland, a society in which education is supposed to be a right, not a privilege.
“It is now estimated by Barnardos that the average basic cost to send a child to secondary school is €765 per child, per year.
"While the average cost for a child in primary school is €360. These back-to-school costs are literally driving families into poverty.
“It has been discovered by the Irish League of Credit Unions that well over a third of parents are being plunged into debt in order to cover these costs; and over 1 in 5 families say their spending on food will suffer as a result.
“Of significant concern is the finding that of those families in debt, 1 in 4 has turned to a moneylender, borrowing anywhere between €400-800.
"These are moneylenders who charge more than 100% interest, harass parents on a weekly basis and knock on their door to collect repayments. No family in a republic should live like that.
“We are in this mess because consecutive Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments, propped up by Labour, have made political choices which have relegated the needs of parents and children when it comes to education – this must change.
“Due to under-investment by Government, schools are placing more and more pressure on parents to make so called ‘voluntary contributions’ to their children’s school.
“Barnados reckon that 71% of secondary schools ask for a ‘voluntary contribution’, while the figures 67% for a primary school – with the average costs ranging between €85-225. Parents should not have to pick up the tab.
"The State must develop a coherent plan for our education system. We must ensure that education becomes truly free. That is the minimum that a true republic can inspire to.
“A number of concrete proposals were made at today’s committee, these included; an increase in capitation grants, the abolition of so called ‘voluntary contributions’, and policies to reduce the cost of books and uniforms.
“Sinn Féin will be setting out our detailed education proposals in our forthcoming alternative budget, and I will continue to work with my colleague Kathleen Funchion to ensure that the Oireachtas report on this issue gives a clear call to the government to ensure that these back-to-school costs be addressed.”