Barnardos survey shows importance of making return to school both safe and affordable - Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has welcomed the publication of the annual Barnardos Back to School Survey.
The survey highlighted that many outstanding issues remain to be resolved before children return to school, while the costs incurred by parents once again undelined that the notion of free education in this state is a myth.
Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “The annual Barnardos Back to School survey illustrates that there is still a lot of worry among parents and children about returning to school. The government needs to address these concerns.
“There is an enormous appetite to get pupils back to school with 90% of parents believing it is important for children's mental health as well as their emotional and social development.
“But 50% of parents remain worried about their children returning to school, so the government has a long way to go to reassure them it will be safe and sustainable. Much of this is down to bad communication and unanswered questions - people feel they haven’t got enough information.
“It is also clear that the delay in providing a roadmap for the return to schools prolonged uncertainty for parents, while the survey of the children and how much they missed their friends underlines the impact it had on young people.
“There is considerable concern among parents of children with underlying conditions too. This has has not been addressed sufficiently in the government's roadmap - parents need assurances on safety and on education.
“What this report also found is that much as in any other year, parents incur huge costs in putting their children through school.
“The cost of sending a first year child to school is €735, with uniforms, books and voluntary contributions making up the largest part of that.
"The reality is that 50% of parents of children in post primary either have to borrow or forego bills or cut back. Many respondents reported spending four figure sums.
“The crisis caused by the pandemic has illustrated that our education system is totally underfunded. The fact that parents are asked to pay over €100 or €200 in voluntary contributions just to keep the lights on and heat going underlines this further.
“Free education in this state is increasingly a myth. Next week Sinn Féin will be bringing forward proposals to reduce the cost of going back to school. I would also urge TDs to vote in favour of the Sinn Féin motion today to ensure our education system is properly funded.”