school costs

School costs revealed

Barnardos surveyed 1,475 parents of primary and secondary school pupils during the 2016 summer holiday – here’s what they revealed.

Education in Ireland is supposed to be free, but parents are forced to cover the costs of many elements of their children’s education.

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Comments left by parents desperate to have their say included:

“We can’t survive from week to week as it is and school costs hold me over the edge so much so that my teenagers ask if I want them to leave school. My children deserve the same opportunity as the next child.”

“My rent has recently gone up by €150 monthly. We live from week to week. School time is a nightmare situation for me.”

“Use of workbooks is crazy, I have four children and none of these books can be passed on, the book rental scheme only covers english readers. I just paid €127 for a senior infant child and a first class child’s books, none of which can be reused as these workbooks are filled in.”

“I do agree with school uniforms, but parents should be allowed to buy generic uniforms and iron on crests. We had to choose between food on the table or him wearing a dirty jumper every day. I choose food.”

Fergus Finlay, CEO, Barnardos said, “We always imagine it’s the children dreading back to school time the most, but year after year it’s clear to Barnardos that parents are the ones suffering.

“This year nearly 1,500 parents took the Barnardos School Costs Survey. For the eleventh year in a row parents have opened up about their feelings of anger and frustration. They told us the lack of consistency in education costs is symptomatic of an education system which has inequality and unfairness at its core.

“They are frustrated by the injustice of different schools setting vastly different parameters, with some benefitting from school book rental schemes, minimal contributions and plain uniforms. Too many, however, face astronomical costs for fully crested uniforms, lengthy book lists and a huge lists of ‘extras’ including payments for stationery, arts materials, photocopying and school tours.”

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June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos added, “However it’s not fair to expect schools to shoulder the burden either. They have faced cut after cut in recent years and many are struggling to make ends meet. It is the Department of Education and Skills, and ultimately the Government, which has the responsibility to deliver free education to all children in Ireland.”

But the government has the power, the means and the opportunity in Budget 2017 to reduce the burden on parents.

So what can we do?


Barnardos are contacting TDs around Ireland and asking them to raise the issue of the cost of education in the Dáil.

The more names, the more impact.

Add your name here and be part of the change.

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Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.