School Grants 2012

Back To School Grants by Annette J Dunlea

Many kids will go back to school with no school books or uniforms.I know the majority of parents will but they are some who won’t purchase them.Like the children’s allowance this should not be used to pay household bills but it is alone for the children’s needs.The state is bankrupt and we need to make savings. People should be able to opt out of receiving children’s allowance and other state grants.Parents are cutting back on food and delaying paying their bills in an effort to cover the costs of sending their children to school, a survey has revealed.The Barnardos School Cost survey highlighted serious concerns among almost 1,000 parents questioned, some of whom said they were struggling to cover costs and were embarrassed at having to seek help from school principals to purchase schoolbooks. The department has received 47,000 claims for manual processing, equivalent to an average 1,700 a day. The payments have been cut since last year, from €305 to €250 for dependent children up to 22 years old and from €200 to €150 for younger children. The Barnardos survey does not include transport costs, but parents said this is still disproportionately affecting children in rural areas. Barnardos has advocated schools scrapping preferred suppliers of uniforms, allowing parents to incorporate school crests onto high-street uniform clothing, and the bulk buying of books over the next five years by schools using the school Book Grant Scheme, as well as wider use of book rental schemes. Schools need to cover more of the educational costs to help parents financially stretched to the limit, Barnardos has said.It also recommends schools use the grant to build up a stockpile of books by selective purchasing over the next five years. “We must address the deficits in the system that are squeezing family budgets and ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn and grow in our schools.” Mr Quinn echoed Barnardos’s advice and said the most appropriate solution is for a school to choose a generic uniform which could be supplied in department stores or other shops, allowing schools to arrange for them to be customised with a badge or crest. The production of the badge may be outsourced but is conceived and delivered locally,” Mr Quinn told the Dáil recently. However, the minister has suggested the Oireachtas Education Committee should haul school management bodies in to try to push for changes to help hard-pressed parents. Franchising of school uniforms and crests to expensive boutiques should not be allowed.
           Voluntary school contributions up 50 per cent since 2011 donations by senior infant parents has risen by a third to €100.Schools are increasingly relying on parents to make up the shortfall left by funding budget cuts.It was found the average cost of sending a child into senior infants is €355, while those entering first year at secondary level have to fork out €770.Parents sending their child to secondary school for the first time will pay an average of €770 in back to school costs at the beginning of the year. Books and school uniforms account for the bulk of this, but voluntary school contributions and transport costs are also a financial burden.They estimate the cost of sending a child to secondary school will cost €620, while primary school will cost €487 per child.Barnardos has welcomed the Code of Practice agreed with school book publishers under which they have said they will try to avoid publishing new editions.But it says parents are not seeing the benefits yet.The state should provide free books to kids whose parents are on welfare.For some parents, the expense of sending their child back to school has led to them having to forgo essentials such as food, the report also revealed.
             To begin with the government gave cheques for back to school uniforms to all parents, even toddlers’ parents, who don’t need school uniforms, without applying for them.In addition to this people get a cheque and the government doesn’t follow up what was done with the money or seek receipts. I strongly believe that a uniform voucher should be issued to parents of school going children, who apply for it if they need it.These could be cashed in the school, school uniform shops or in local supermarkets . The allowance is €150 for children aged 4-11(per child) and €250 for chidren aged 12-22( per child).Why are adults over 18 getting the back to school grant if they have their Leaving Cert finished?If the state went to clothes producers of school uniforms and ordered en masse they could agree a discount and look around for best value like they did with medicines and put a cap on maximum school uniform fees, like their legal fees.It could be part of the Croke Park Agreement for secretaries and school administrators to administer this at local level.All schools should offer a school book exchange where kids can sell their old books and uniforms in their schools.If the state did not give grants but bought uniforms, tracksuits and books according to needs given by individual principals every child would have their books and uniforms going back to school and the state would get huge discounts from suppliers.It world for the medical and legal industry, why not for education?
             The Department of Education book grant to be provided is: to DEIS schools for books €21 per student and to non-DEIS schools for books €11.They urge schools to put in place book rental schemes, as these are the most effective means of lowering costs for all parents.The schools should issue book tokens or by the books wholesale from the publishers and gain huge saving for the state.The state should intervene and allow reprints every 3 years so family can pass on books.Also books should be rented from the schools and teacher during their long paid summer holidays should write their own workbooks based on how the class is progressing with lessons. These could be rented if necessary from the school. If books need to be purchased outside the school needy children should get book vouchers and furnish receipts to the school principal.
Students whose parent or guardian holds a current medical card do not have to pay the examination fees for Junior or Leaving Certificate.We do need to help the many families suffering but to be fair and to give it to those in most need and get value for state money at the same time.The government needs to look into the whole area of education like medicine and law and see how practices could be improved.The state has its own publisher, why can’t they publish books for state exams and rent them to parents? The number of students at second level is set to increase by more than 25 per cent in the period to 2026, placing further pressure on the education budget. Continuing high birth rates and data from the 2011 census indicate that student numbers will grow from 327,000 this year to 413,000 by 2026. Previous estimates had put the projected number for 2026 at about 383,000.But this new projection for second level will place further strain on the €9 billion education budget.He said the education system had been rocked by various cutbacks over the past four years.The Teachers’ Union of Ireland has said that 4,500 more secondary school teachers will be needed by 2026 to meet growing classroom numbers.When last years Census figures are taken account of the number of second level students will grow by 26% over the next 14 years to well over 410,000. There will be a year by year increase and we need to match the increase with additional teaching resources year by year.

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About Author Annette J Dunlea Irish Writer

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