In addition, most Munster parents surveyed said they were expected to pay a voluntary contribution of between €40 and €59 for primary school and between €100 and €150 for secondary school.
School uniform costs varied widely. Most parents paid an average of between €126 and €200, but others paid much more.
One third of parents in Munster also paid more than €300 a year for secondary school books.
One Munster parent commented in the survey: “There is simply no such thing as free education. We will literally have to go without food to send children back to school this year. We both work full time but because I’m on maternity leave (and it does not represent the hours I work) we will be under ridiculous pressure to keep our heads above water.”
Another parent who took part in the survey said: “I would like it if the school uniforms and tracksuit were not crested so that a cheaper alternative could be found. I also feel that the cost of school books is crazy, especially as they seem to be changing every year at the moment so younger siblings cannot reuse the books. It’s scandalous.”
Catherine Joyce, head of advocacy at Barnardos Ireland stated: “Free education in Ireland is, in fact, a myth. At this time of year thousands of parents across Munster are scratching their heads trying to work out how they can possibly foot the bill to send their children to school.”
Ms Joyce noted that the survey does contain some encouraging statistics, such as a rise in the number of parents who have access to a book rental scheme, and indications that school uniform costs seem to be levelling off.
However, she also pointed out that the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance has been slashed to €100 for primary and €200 for secondary school pupils, “meaning those most at-risk of poverty are most likely to be pushed to the brink by school costs”.
“We have a constitutional commitment to delivering free primary education. With economic recovery on everyone’s lips, now is the time for the government to take a stand and reverse years of underinvestment in education. It must show leadership and take decisive action to lower school costs for all parents,” concluded Ms Joyce.