87% of surveyed parents cut back or delay spending in order to pay school voluntary contributions, a report by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has revealed.
1,447 parents responded to the online survey and had paid voluntary contributions ranging between €30 to €550.
The Department of Education is clear that parents must be advised “there is no compulsion to pay” a voluntary contribution - but many parents feel intense pressure to do so anyway.
“On top of the voluntary contribution, there is a €350 fee for transition year,” one respondent told SVP.
“That’s €600 before I buy a book.
“It has seriously put a dent in our family finances, so much so that I had to borrow money from my family to buy uniforms and shoes.”
Another said their child did not receive a homework notebook if no voluntary contribution was paid to the school
“Teacher would ask where’s your notebook, so all the class would know fees weren’t paid,” they said.
“Very embarrassing for [the] child.”
SVP National President Rose McGowan said it was time for the State to put an end to voluntary contributions by spending more on education.
“Many parents who took part in the research spoke about the stress caused by requests for contributions, the need to cut back on essential spending, going into debt and feeling ashamed for struggling to meet the costs for their children,” she said.
“We can end voluntary contributions by investing in our education system through adequate capitation and free schoolbooks at secondary school.
“This must be part of a wider effort from educational leadership to ensure education policy and practice is inclusive and meeting the needs and rights of students from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds.”
In last year’s budget, the Government announced a one-off €90 million package to help schools with the increased cost of living.
Main image: A worried woman studying her finances.