The Government should exercise “caution” in extending the free schoolbook scheme to secondary schools, the National Association of Principals and Deputies has said.
Today, figures released by Barnardos revealed that a quarter of parents have taken out a loan in order to cover back-to-school costs this year.
On average, a parent spends €972 on a child entering their first year of secondary school – and half of parents say things have become more difficult because of the cost-of-living crisis.
Barnardos has urged the Government to tackle the problem by making schoolbooks free.
On The Pat Kenny Show, however, National Association of Principals and Deputies (NAPD) Director Paul Clones said it is a “good idea” in principle but he has concerns about how it would work in practice.
“Firstly, it’s just a word of caution about universal supports,” he said.
“A number of people can afford the schoolbooks and the diverting of funds to a universal support can sometimes mean funds are diverted away from those that really need it.
“So, that’s something that needs to be explored - just a word of caution.”
Mr Clones said Irish secondary schools would struggle to introduce a free book scheme – even though they are standard in most European countries.
“Schools are not equipped at this point to administer that,” he said.
“A 1,000 pupil school, each student on average [with] eight books, that’s 8,000 copies, taster programmes.
“It’s more complicated at post-primary than it is at primary.”
In March, the Government announced school books for children in primary schools would be made free for the first time.
Schools will be given €96 to spend per pupil and Minister for Education Norma Foley said €50 million scheme would ease the financial burden on families.
The Department of Education is currently in discussion with the Department of Public Expenditure about whether the scheme can be extended to secondary schools next year.
Main image: Schoolgirls sitting in front of their exercise books. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa