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Mary Lou McDonald - Government should extend School Book Rental Scheme

16 August, 2006

Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called upon the government to "help ease the burden of debt felt by parents on the eve of another school year".

Ms McDonald said that the Government should extend a 'School Book Rental Scheme' state wide as well as raising the Back to School Allowance threshold to reflect the true costs of sending children to school across the state.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"The beginning of a new school year is often an exciting time for school children throughout the country. However for very many parents it can be a stressful and expensive period. Parents must ensure that that their children are adequately kitted out for another year in terms of clothing, stationery, Physical Education equipment, lunches, added school fees and many additional hidden costs.

"Whilst some help is available in the form of the 'Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance' (BSCFA) it is clear in many cases that this grant is woefully inadequate. Arbitrary thresholds mean that those parents whose income is just above the threshold do not qualify. It is essential that the BSCFA is increased to reflect the true costs of sending a child to school in 2006, given that these costs are spiralling year on year.

"In addition, children‚s charity Barnardos has recently highlighted the increasing costs of school books with the cost of these texts approximately €137 per primary school child, and for a secondary school pupil on average €286. Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to extend the school book rental scheme, particularly in areas with high educational disadvantage. Advocates of this system have been calling for such a scheme from 1999 and before.

"Children deserve the best start to their academic life. The link between poverty and educational disadvantage is indisputable. I am calling upon the Government to seriously address this issue to ensure that all of the children of the nation are capable of reaching their educational potential." ENDS

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