Back To School A Stressful Time For All

Back To School: A Stressful Time For All by Annette J Dunlea
Published In The Carrigdhoun Newspaper 10th Sep 2011 p.9

Its that time of the year again the kids are returning to school. Back-to-school brings its own set of pressures. For kids, there can be anxiety about new teachers, classroom challenges and friendships. For parents there is the cost of new uniforms, tracksuits, books and school registeration.A recent study by Barnardos says back to school costs can be as much as €350 for a child in junior infants and as high as €800 for a second-level student. Kids need to be retrained their old schedule of early to bed school nights and up early in the morning and then theres the homework.

The government have a back to school grant to assist parents on welfare and low incomes.Be warned there is a backlog this year. The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA) helps you meet the cost of uniforms and footwear for children going to school. The scheme operates from June to September each year.To get the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, you (the parent or guardian) must meet a number of conditions:
You must be getting certain social welfare payments or payments for training, employment schemes or adult education and getting an increase in that payment for the childYour total household income must be below a certain amount. The child/student must be aged between 2 and 22 on or before 30 September of the year you apply and must be in full-time education at a recognised school or college This year most of the process will be automated. This means that you may not need to fill out an application form for the payment. If you qualify you should have received a letter from the Department of Social Protection in June telling you how and when the payment will be made.

If you do not qualify automatically you must apply in the normal way The Department of Social Protection is posting updates to their website on the progress being made in processing these applications.You may qualify for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance if you are:
Getting a social welfare payment (including Family Income Supplement) or a Health Service Executive payment, or
Taking part in an approved employment scheme, or
Taking part in a recognised education or training course, or
Involved in an Area Partnership Scheme, or
Attending a FÁS, Fáilte Ireland or LES training scheme
income you get from Rent Supplement or Mortgage Interest Supplement, Family Income Supplement, Blind Welfare Allowance, Rehabilitation Training Allowance, rehabilitative employment (up to €120 per week), work as a home help, Domiciliary Care Allowance, Mobility Allowance and the Higher Education Grant Scheme is not counted.
Income limits for couples 2011

Couple with Income limit in 2011
1 child €563.60
2 children €593.40
3 children €623.20
4 children €653*
*The income limit is increased by €29.80 for each additional child.
Income limits for a lone parent 2011

Lone parent with Income limit in 2011
1 child €410.10
2 children €439.90
3 children €469.70
4 children €499.50*
The income limit is increased by €29.80 for each additional child.

There are some special conditions for people who are on Back to Work Allowance (Employees), Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, Community Employment, Job Initiative, Revenue Job Assist, Rural Social Scheme, Tús and the Community Services Programme/Social Economy Programme (Grant Aided Employees). If you were on a social welfare before going onto one of these schemes, you will first be assessed using the standard means test for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.If you fail to qualify using the standard means test, you will be re-assessed to find out if you can retain the Allowance as a secondary benefit under the different back to work schemes. In the re-assessment you can keep your entitlement to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (or apply for it if you did not have an eligible child before now), as long as your gross household income is less than €317.43.In the re-assessment of means, the value of the Back to Work Allowance, Back to Enterprise Allowance and Family Income Supplement is not taken into account in the calculation of your gross household income. The people most likely to qualify using the secondary benefit (€317.43) assessment are people getting a Back to Work Enterprise Allowance The allowance paid for each eligible child aged 2-11 on or before 30 September 2011 is €200.The allowance paid for each eligible child aged 12-22 on or before 30 September 2011 is €305.

The scheme is open from 1 June to 30 September. If you have automatically qualified you get a letter from the Department of Social Protection telling you how and when your payment will be made. If you do not automatically qualify you must apply for the payment. Most people who received the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance in 2010 do not need to apply for the payment in 2011. These people should have received a letter from the Department telling them when their payment will be made. Some people, mainly those getting Disability Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Invalidity Pension and State pensions, could not qualify automatically for various reasons. If you have not received a letter by the end of June you need to apply. To apply fill in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance form (pdf) and return to the address below before 30 September 2011. You can also get the form from your Social Welfare Local Office, from your local health centre or by texting ‘form BTSCFA’ followed by your name and address to 51909. Completed application forms together with supporting documentation should be returned to:Department of Social Protection, PO Box 131 , Letterkenny ,Co. Donegal.It may take a number of weeks to process your application. If you are unhappy with the decision on your application, you should send a letter to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Review Section at the address below setting out why you are not happy with the decision and asking that the claim be reviewed.St Vincent De Paul, meanwhile, offers further assistance to those unable to meet the rising costs of sending a child to school. People could also wait for the uniform and book sales in the end of September or swap with cousins or neighbours.

Books remain very expensive and are changed too regularly.Recently, the Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced a new voluntary code of practice for publishers of textbooks following recent meetings with publishers themselves along with representatives of parents groups and members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.It aims to ease the burden on struggling parents by reducing the cover price on the most popular textbooks in subjects like English, Irish and Maths.It also advises that schools which buy books in bulk should be given a similar discount to the ones afforded to retailers.

Crested unifroms and track suits should be bought wholesale by the schools instead of making families buy them from shops and boutiques at premium prices.The schools should leave some uniform items generic like the skirt, shirt, trousers and poloshirt to help struggling parents and have just the tracksuit and jumper crested.Decisions on the school uniforms is at the discretion of the individual schools and boards of management. A recent survey on uniform prices found:there is up to €18.50 in the price difference of a pair of generic school trousers for a five-year-old boy.A five-year-old girl’s pinafore is double the price in a traditional shop in the west of Ireland than in Dunnes Stores.A plain white polo T-shirt costs €3.50 in Dunnes Stores but this soars above €10 in Arnotts when a school crest is added.Traditional shops are unable to compete with supermarket chain Tesco, which is selling school jumpers from €2.50.When children move on to second-level, the price of school jumpers and blazers particular to specific schools increases markedly.For example, the tartan school skirt for girls attending Our Lady’s Templeogue in Dublin is priced at €72 in Arnotts, while their crested jumper is €45. There is also a specific scarf for €15.The National Consumer Agency (NCA) last night appealed to school boards of management to allow parents to buy the uniform and school crest separately in a bid to help them save money.

A new website schooldays.ie is Ireland’s Online Resource for Parents & Teachers in Irish Education and it offers parents an opportunity to by books and uniforms second hand. Its website is online at http://www.schooldays.ie/ .It contains a large amount of information for parents and teachers including: Back to School Resources, School Year Calendar, School Books New & Secondhand, School Uniforms, Learning Resources, and Parents Association Resources.Parenting Advice & Support, Bullying Issues, Health & Wellbeing, Childcare, and Ask Mother Hen module.They can be contacted by : phone : 01 4406608, fax: 01 9022747 , email : info@schooldays.ie or write to them at address: PO Box, 10718, Blackrock, Co Dublin.

It costs €1,277 a year to send a child to primary school and €1,996 a year to send a child to secondary school, according to research published by Bank of Ireland Life and schooldays.ie last week.Barnardos Ireland chief executive Fergus Finlay yesterday argued that the school book rental scheme should be extended to all schools, including those in non-disadvantaged areas, to help cut down on costs.“The message from parents responding to the Barnardos survey is clear: families are struggling to meet the extensive costs of sending children to school,” the charity said.“The stress of costs that strain already stretched budgets can colour children’s perception of education, making an already uphill battle for learning even harder. Education is a right, not a privilege.”

The provisional school dates for 2011 are:
Schools throughout the country re-open last week in August and the first week in September.
Junior Certificate Results issued 14th September 2011.
Higher Options Conference RDS 14 – 16 Sept.October Mid-Term Break
Mon 31st Oct to Fri 4th Nov incl
Halloween falls on Mon 31st Oct.
Children’s Book Festival 1st-31st Oct
Science Week 13th – 20th November
Christmas Schools Holidays
Fri 23rd Dec – Fri 6th Jan incl.
Schools re-open Mon 9th Jan.
BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, RDS, 11th – 15th Jan
February Mid-Term*Secondary closed 13–17 Feb incl
Primary closed 16-17 Feb with option to extend to 5 day break
St Patrick’s Day – Sat 17 March
Public Holiday – Mon 19 March
Easter School Holidays
Mon 2nd – Fri 13th April incl*
May Bank Holiday – 7th May
June Bank Holiday- 4th June

The End

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About Author Annette J Dunlea Irish Writer

Irish Writer Website: http://ajdunlea.webs.com/ Twitter: @adunlea Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annettejdunleairishauthor
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