My two eldest children are back to school next week. The cost of uniforms, books, shoes and everything else comes in at just under €1000. For two small children. We have spread the cost over the last few months school costs June, books July, uniform and shoes , August.
Uniforms, school books, stationary, bags, lunch boxes, school contribution, socks, runners, we will hold off until October to buy new coats. The costs go up every year.
I was going through their school books the other evening. I bought the exact same set of books for my daughter two years ago as I did for my son this year. Next year I will buy a third set of the same books. They are all workbooks, they cannot be passed down.
This is the first year neither of my children will be taught in a prefab building. Fingers crossed next year, the building of their new school will be complete and none of them will be taught in a prefab again. The school have been fighting and fund raising for this building since the 1970s.
My school bill could be cheaper but it’s often a false economy buying cheaper uniform items or shoes as ,I have found, they do not last and need to be replaced within weeks. It all adds up. We have two incomes, we have paid for almost all the back to school costs now, the car tax will have to wait another month though, again.
What about people without two incomes though or without any income? The Back to School allowance is available to those in receipt of qualifying welfare payments. The rate is €100 per child for children aged 4-11 years and €200 for children aged 12 +. That will not go far. My small children cost almost 1k for two, a child starting secondary schools uniform, books and extras can cost double or even triple that.
There are children who will start school next week and their parents will go hungry to ensure they have everything they need. There are children who will start school next week without everything they need. There are children who will start school next week hungry.
This is the free education all children of Ireland are entitled too.
Again, I appreciate, I am in a much more fortunate position than many, the back to school costs are increasing each year but we are managing. Something else is falling down the list of things that need to be paid though as a result.
Surely savings can be made somewhere. Would a universal book rental scheme for school going children be that hard to organise? Do small children need two uniforms per week? My children wear a crested uniform three days per week and a crested track suit the other two days. Could junior classes not just wear the track suit? Is a tax credit for parents with school going children against education costs too impossible to implement?
I have friends who look forward to their children starting school so their childcare bill will be reduced or ended. Sorry to burst the bubble but you still need childcare if your children are in school even if you work part-time or term time. You also need a flexible employer. Thankfully I have one. I am lucky. I can work around school meetings and plays and masses. I can run if the school phones if one of my children are sick. I can take a half day if the school has a half day. I still need childcare though and I work part-time. I am lucky though, very few parents have this flexibility.The costs continue. The taxes keep climbing.
The out goings wont stop next week. September also heralds the return to extra curricular activities. I know and appreciate these are optional extras but I want my children to learn to swim or to engage in team sports. I choose for my children to do these activities. They do not have to. Even with two incomes coming into the household we will have to let the kids choose one activity to partake in. One each because despite the two incomes, that is all we can afford, after all we have corrupt banks, ex politicians and bondholders to support.
So everything will be paid for we will sit back and breathe for a bit but the requests will come home from school regularly. Please pay X amount by Friday for this that and the other. Fundraising please pay X per child. I do not blame the school, the school relies heavily on fund-raising as their budgets have been slashed too. Its more money though that has to be found from somewhere and the back of mind when I get these requests from the school with really short notice, I always think, well there must be one family reading this note that this will be the straw that breaks them. It wont be me but there for but the grace of god go I, it might be me in the future. How do we fix this? How do we make all these costs more manageable?
My youngest daughter starts here ECCE free preschool year next week. The free preschool year is one of the rare great legacies from the Fianna Fail era. This will be my third child to avail of free preschool. My eldest daughter only got it for a few months as she was in preschool when it started. It is a brilliant initiative. Every child in Ireland is entitled to a year of free preschool. Wouldn’t it be great if every child in Ireland was entitled to free education until they are 18 and something could be fixed as the current system is broken. Until then I will go back to watering my money tree and hope it starts to grow soon.