Donegal North East TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn was joined by County Councillors Mick Quinn & Jack Murray as they launched a Sinn Féin campaign aimed at getting Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to introduce relatively simple measures that would reduce the cost of sending a child to school.
The Sinn Féin launch came in the same week as the Barnardos’ School Costs Survey which highlighted the increasing financial burden being placed on parents when sending their children to school.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: “This is the seventh year that the Barnardos’ School Cost Survey has been published and it highlights how many parents are struggling to meet the cost of sending their child or children to school.
“The parents who responded to this online survey reported that the average cost of sending a child age 10 to primary school was €390 and for a 12 year old attending 1st year of secondary school the cost was somewhere in the region of €770.
“School uniforms, footwear and text books were the most significant expense incurred by parents who are paying an average of €100 for some primary school uniforms and between €150 – €170 for a secondary school uniform.
“Parents are understandably highly critical of being forced to buy uniforms from an elite of selected producers and retailers who can charge exorbitantly high prices for items of clothing all because they come with a school crest.
“Sinn Féin has consistently called on the Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to introduce measures to eliminate this school uniform racket.
“Similarly the survey highlights the inability of parents to pass on school books between siblings and the constant reprint of text books is inflating back to school costs to unacceptably high levels.
“We know that Schools have been placed under increased financial strain because of cuts to the capitation grant and in many cases this is being passed on to parents who are being forced to pay voluntary contributions of between €50 – €70 at primary level and €120 at post primary.
“Sinn Féin in Donegal has launched a campaign that seeks to get Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to introduce relatively simple measures that would reduce the cost of sending a child to school.
“We have sourced a company that produces custom made crests which can be ironed on to generically coloured jumpers at a fraction of the cost of what is currently available. Already, we have seen retailers reducing the cost of their school jumpers in the face of competition from multiples like LIDL and ALDI.
“We also believe the book lending scheme, which has proven to be a success should now be extended right across the State.
“As we fast approach the new school term, this Barnardos Survey and its conclusions are a timely reminder of the financial cost and unacceptable strain being placed on many parents.
“The fact that some parents are actually cutting down on food in order to help with the costs of sending children to school is an indictment of this government’s austerity programme.
“It also highlights and provides clear evidence that the Back to School Allowance is less than adequate to meet the growing expense of sending a child or children to School.
“Sinn Féin believes that with a little imagination and effort Education, Minister Ruairi Quinn, his colleague Social Protection Minster Joan Burton and their department officials could introduce measures that would at least improve the situation for parents trapped in this situation.
“Minister Quinn’s stock reply when challenged on school uniforms is that ‘his hands are tied’. His Pontius Pilot approach is fooling no one and more must be done by him and Minister Burton to help families in these difficult economic times.
“Barnardos should be congratulated for producing this extensive survey. It should be used by ministers to inform and direct their policies as hundreds of thousands of parents make plans and preparations for their children to attend schools in September.”