It's time to even out the playing field

Posted by Audry Deane  on 14 August 2013 | 0 comments

books.jpg"Our volunteers witness the anxiety and strain put on parents trying to juggle their low incomes to meet the multiple demands during the school year" Says Audry Deane, Social Justice and Policy Officer, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

The benefits of an education last a lifetime, but in Ireland going to school costs too much. Every Summer SVP supports families across the country unable to afford the back to school costs including uniforms, books, voluntary contributions and other expenses.  Our volunteers witness the anxiety and strain put on parents trying to juggle their low incomes to meet the multiple demands during the school year for events, curricular based sport, music and drama costs, school tours, fund raising ventures and subject based equipment costs among others.  

A recent survey by Barnardos showed that students starting secondary school cost parents on average a staggering €785. With at least two education companies increasing their schoolbooks cost this year, this looks only set to rise.

On top of the increasing cost of schoolbooks, a growing concern of ours is the rush by some schools towards high-end tablets.  The 23% VAT charge on eBooks adds an additional financial burden and we are aware of an already developing digital divide, with better-off pupils accessing the latest technology while many families struggle to afford these overpriced and as yet un-researched new tools of learning. 

Last year we circulated a guide to boards of management in all schools with options to keep school uniform costs down. However the Barnardos survey showed that 74% of primary and 97% of secondary schools still have a compulsory school crest and the cost of clothing and footwear can be up to €335 a year. With 1,500 families in Ireland applying for the school clothing and footwear allowance every day, the €50 cut this year will have an impact across the whole of the country. 

When children are excluded because their parents cannot afford the costs of education, unequal educational outcomes result.  SVP continues to work hard with like-minded organisations such as Barnardos and the National Parents Council to create practical solutions to these education costs.  Now we need you to make your voice heard – support our call for an equal educational playing field for all our young people.  We want serious steps taken to bring down the costs of having children at school so they can all reach their potential – regardless of the income of parents.

Blog post written by Audry Deane

Social Justice and Policy Officer

More by Audry Deane


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