Schools are willing to work with families around voluntary contribution charges so that “no student will go without.”
A report published this morning by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has revealed that 87% of surveyed parents cut back or delay spending in order to pay school voluntary contributions.
The study polled 1,447 parents, who had made voluntary contributions to schools ranging between €30 to €550.
Minister for Education Norma Foley previously told Newstalk that there was “absolutely no compulsion on any parent or guardian to make a contribution of that nature to school.”
However, some parents reported still feeling this financial pressure, despite the voluntary nature of the payment.
On Newstalk Breakfast National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) Director, Paul Crone said: “No school wants to put any family or a parent under pressure.”
“I would argue this strongly – no school will leave a student go without,” he said.
Mr Crone said schools use voluntary contributions to provide “much more than just the curriculum.”
“They're looking at the holistic development of the student,” he said.
“We can't lose sight of the fact that every parent wants the best for their child and every principal wants the best for every student.
“We are working together to work towards the same aim.”
Mr Crone said while voluntary contributions should remain voluntary, it would be “remiss” to say that “schools aren’t struggling financially.”
“That was acknowledged by the department and the minister with the one-off cost of living grant,” he said.
“A lot of those costs haven't come down.
“School principals are struggling to balance the books and we would argue strongly that that shouldn't be the role of the principal.
“There needs to be financial expertise in the school to allow for budgeting, procurement, financial accounting, procedures, auditing – to make sure that schools are getting value for money.
“[That would] allow the principal to focus on what their real job is, which is leading learning and the student experience in the school.”
Range in costs
Author and Irish Times journalist Jen Hogan said there is “a vast difference” between what people are asked to pay in some areas versus others.
“Some of the amounts range from €70 to €600,” she said.
“Location also seems to really dictate how much people are asked to pay,” she said. “If you go near South Dublin for example, you may not get to €600 but €500 isn't uncommon.”
“One parent reported that she actually used a part of a Credit Union loan to pay off a voluntary contribution.
“The inconsistency is really this big problem.”
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Main images shows Mother And Teenage Daughter Having Discussion With Male Teacher At School Parents Evening (MBI / Alamy Stock Photo)