There’s no such thing as free education and that has never been more obvious than now, as the rising costs of school fees, books, clothes and supplies put more and more families under more and more pressure with every passing year.
In fact, calls for help to the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) from families struggling with the cost of education have increased by 4% this summer with approximately 300 worried parents making the call last week alone.
This increase comes after the charity reported a 20% jump in requests for help with school costs in 2018. The smaller rise in calls this year suggests that the increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance in 2019 has lifted some of the pressure on struggling families.
But, with requests increasing for a third year in a row, SVP says much greater investment in the education system is needed so that costs aren’t a barrier to participation at primary and secondary level.
SVP has put forward a number of proposals to immediately alleviate much of the financial stress on parents in a submission made last week to a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills.
Two of those proposals include free school books across primary and secondary schools, beginning with a €20 million investment in Budget 2020; and an end to the voluntary contribution system in all non-fee paying primary and secondary schools, with a restore to capitation grants to 2010 levels.
These measures would certainly alleviate much of the pressure on families who are facing so many other rising costs in their lives without money coming between their children and an education.
And, with third level education and everything that goes with it - rent, travel, fees - on the rise, things are only going to get more difficult financially. So surely something needs to be done now to help families prepare for the huge education expense to come?