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Harsh lesson Almost a quarter of parents are getting into debt to cover back to school costs

Spending is up €63 at primary school level, at €1,186 per child compared to €1,123 last year

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Back to school costs are mounting

Back to school costs are mounting

Back to school costs are mounting

A new survey has revealed how almost a quarter of parents are getting into debt to cover back to school costs. 

The latest Irish League of Credit Unions annual survey shows that parents at secondary school level are spending an average of €1,491 per child - up €24 on last year.

Spending is up €63 at primary school level, at €1,186 per child compared to €1,123 last year.

Journalist and mother, Jen Hogan, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the experience parents face every year, adding "nothing ever changes" when it comes to the rising costs of sending a child to school.

She said: “It’s hard to believe we’re having this conversation again.

"Every single year we’re having this conversation about the excessive cost of back to school, and nothing ever changes.”

Two years ago, an Oireachtas committee recommended that generic school uniforms without badges should be introduced, but specific crested uniforms are still the requirement in many schools.

Jen also noted there can be significant initial costs - such as iPads - when a child goes to secondary school.

“The cost of books, activities children do, stationary, bags, transport… it all adds up. It is actually huge.

“I’ve somebody starting secondary school this year, and it will be in excess of that average [cost] just to get him to school.

“It really is this additional pressure that’s hanging over parents for the summer.”

Jen suggested it's "almost accepted" that some parents will need to go to the likes of credit unions and seek loans to cover the costs.

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She observed: “Anecdotally, I’ve heard from parents who say they’re taking out loans to pay for the voluntary contribution.

"This comes up every year: people feeling that it’s not voluntary, that they actually have to pay it.

“It happens everywhere - the amount varies hugely from one school to the other.”

In terms of saving money, Jen said generic uniforms from larger retailers can help - but only in schools that don’t insist on specific crested uniforms.

Passing on books is also a possibility although in many cases, school books are frequently updated between years and workbooks are often not reusable.

However, Jen believes there’s always some “nasty surprise” facing parents in terms of an additional and unexpected cost.

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