main banner

Parents-Shamed-into-Paying-Voluntary-Contribution

Parents Shamed into Paying 'Voluntary' Contribution, Back-To-School Survey Shows

Parents of primary school children are being shamed into handing over 'voluntary' contribution fees to their children's schools, with one in five parents saying they have been sent reminders via their children, a report has found.

The ninth annual Barnados back-to-school survey has found that tactics to pursue parents for non-payment of the voluntary contribution are common in primary schools. These include sending reminder letters/emails/texts directly to the parents (as reported by 34% of parents) or sending such reminders via their children (22% of parents). Other methods included reminders in newsletters or children being denied a school journal or lockers if the payment is not paid.

One parent told the charity: “Children are not allowed lockers until the contribution is paid. There is no choice but to pay it.”

The survey found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of parents of primary school pupils have been asked for a voluntary contribution, with huge variations in what parents are being asked to pay. This is an area that is really enraging parents with one saying: “The cost of sending a child to school is beyond many parents these days and some schools can be relentless in their pursuit of 'voluntary contributions' because the school does not get adequate government funding. I feel these payments should be unilaterally banned.”

The charity has recommended that the Government implement the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection on tackling school costs, specifically around eliminating voluntary contributions.

Overall, the average cost of having a child in Senior Infants in 2014 Ireland is €345 - not including extra costs such as trainers, school bags and extracurricular activities. This rises to an average of €380 for a fourth-class child. The survey had its highest response rate yet with 2,027 parents taking the time to submit their costs.

The cost of having a child in Senior Infants breaks down as follows:
Clothing €110
Footwear €55
School books €75
Classroom resources €30
Voluntary contribution €75

At primary school level a huge 76% of parents have to buy a school uniform/tracksuit with the school crest on it. This means that they have to buy from particular retailers rather than high-street stores, many of whom have great offers on plain back-to-school items. Many respondents support the wearing of uniforms but not having to buy specific items. One parent commented: "I agree to having a uniform but school uniforms should be generic... A simple iron-on or stitch on crest would be sufficient and a fraction of the price."

Books are the second highest cost with the majority of parents spending around €75 for books for Senior Infants. Barnardos say that parents expressed continued anger at the inability to pass books on due to new editions being published and these editions being prescribed by the teacher or the teacher choosing different books altogether for that subject.

One furious parent said: “I believe that the system whereby publishers bring out new updated editions of books with minimal changes, and schools require the pupils to have these new versions is absolutely disgraceful and an obvious money-making ploy. I believe the using of workbooks which cannot then be recycled instead of copies is also very unfair to struggling parents.”

For more on the report see the Barnardos website.
Do you have a child in primary school? Do these findings reflect the costs in your area?

About the Author

A freelance journalist, editor and the busy (and very lucky!) mammy of one delightful ray of sunshine. Watches far too much Home and Away than is healthy for a person over the age of 12. May be partial to a Galaxy or two (a day).

Comments

Please login to leave a comment.