Back to school costs soar as parents fork out on books

Back to School costs crippling parents
Photo: Sam Boal/

A new survey has reported that it costs Irish parents an average of €275 (£248) for secondary school books per child, and €800 (£722) in total school costs.

Children’s charity Barnardos published its annual school costs survey last week and surveyed over 1,800 parents on the financial pressures they experienced as their children returned to school.

The survey found that the impact of school costs meant that 45 per cent of parents had to forgo other bills or cut back on daily expenses. Parents of primary school pupils pay on average between €50 and €100 (£45-90) on books while 20 per cent of parents of secondary school pupils pay in excess of €300 (£270).

On average, parents of primary school children pay €85 (£76) per child on books, whereas they pay a total of €395 (£356) in school costs per year.

In the release Barnardos called on the government to invest €103.2 million (£93.2m) in primary schools over a three-year period, beginning with €20 million (£18m) to cover school book costs. It has also asked for €126.9 million (£114m) annually to make secondary education free for all children.

The survey also showed that there was far greater access to primary school book rental schemes than there was for secondary schools.

A total of 71 per cent of primary school parents had access to a rental scheme compared to just 37 per cent of secondary school parents who pay around twice as much in order to rent them. Generic school uniforms are more common at primary level than secondary level.

Parents spend on average €95 (£85) on school specific uniforms at primary level and between €150 and €200 (£135-180) for them at secondary level.

A plain, non-crested uniform can be bought in only 14 per cent of primary schools and only one per cent of secondary schools. The remainder of children attend a school with no school uniform.

Fewer parents reported that they were being asked to pay a voluntary contribution this year but significantly more parents are being asked to pay the mandatory classroom resources fees.

One parent reported: “Books should be provided free to students, and there should be no examination fees. Schools expect too much support from parents through fundraising… Many parents are already hard-pressed.

“The State should be providing all that is needed in order for a school to function successfully instead of making the school go to the parents.”


The prevalence of children using laptops / increased from 14 per cent of parents saying their children uses these devices in primary school compared with 12 per cent in 2016.

The school provides these devices according to 92 per cent of the parents with 86 per cent reporting that software is also included. Their usage in secondary schools is higher with 23 per cent of parents stating their child uses them but only a fifth of parents said the school provides these devices leaving many having to buy the device required themselves.

While many parents feel a switch to digital devices reduces the weight of school bags, many are critical of the initial expensive outlay that parents have to pay for e-books and software.

“The cost to start secondary school is madness, it will cost in the region of €1600 for my child to start first year,” one parent was quoted as saying.

“Also, is there a real need for each child to have an ipad? Surely books are sufficient and then laptops/ipads should be provided for in school use by the schools if needed for lessons. It is a crippling cost to some parents.

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