01 August, 2019 - Statement from Minister on back to school costs

Minister McHugh highlights efforts being made to support parents on back to school costs

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. has highlighted efforts being made by the Government to support parents and families with back to school costs.

Minister McHugh said: “The Government is committed to tackling back to school costs. “As part of our efforts on that front I am making final preparations to publish the Student and Parent Charter Bill. It is an important piece of legislation and it will offer significant reform in how school management engages with the school community.

“One of its key initiatives will be to allow students, mothers and fathers have a say on many aspects of life in a school. Costs will be a significant topic.

“The legislation will require schools to consult with students and parents and invite them to offer feedback on issues such as costs and suggest changes to help reduce expenses.

“I look forward to this important change in how our schools operate and the benefits it will bring to students and their families.”

Minister McHugh also noted the success of the Department’s School Books Grant Scheme. It is available to all recognised primary and post-primary schools within the Free Education Scheme to help with the cost of school books.

“Almost €17 million in funding was provided to schools in 2018 for this book scheme. It is aimed at pupils whose families are on low incomes or experience financial hardship. The grant can be used to set up a book rental scheme within the school or to help individual students buy books and all schools are encouraged to operate such a scheme.” 

Minister McHugh also noted initiatives being take over the last two years by the Department to promote measures to be adopted by schools to reduce costs, including the cost of school uniforms.

“This includes encouraging cost-effective practices like generic rather than branded clothing, use of sew-on or iron-on crests and all elements of a uniform being available from various stores,” he said. 

“I have also acknowledged the need to improve capitation funding for all schools. In 2019, the Government provided for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post-primary schools that will apply from the start of the coming school year. This increase in capitation will mean an additional €10 million will be allocated to primary and post-primary schools for the coming school year. As a Government we are committed to building on that in the coming years.”

Minister McHugh also welcomed the recent announcement by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to increase the back to school allowance for the 2019/2020 school year by €25, bringing the total budget provision for the scheme to over €56 million this year. 

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance provides a once-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when children start school each autumn. It will be automatically paid to almost 145,000 families in respect of approximately 266,000 children. Other families are recommended to check out the scheme to see if they are eligible. The income limits for this payment have been adjusted to ensure that the increases in social welfare payment rates introduced by Budget 2019 do not negatively impact on people’s entitlement to the allowance.