More than three quarters of parents (78%) say the cost of Back to School is a financial burden. This is a significant increase on 67% in 2018. Parents getting children ready for secondary school are spending €1,399 per child. This is up €20 on the €1,379 being spent last year. Parents of primary school children are however spending less; €949 this year compared to €999 last year (€50 decrease).
Understandably, more parents of secondary school children are finding costs a struggle. Eight in ten (83%) say the back to school spend is a financial burden compared with 77% of parents at primary level.
The findings were revealed in a national survey of 882 parents of school children by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU). The survey was carried out by independent market research company, iReach Insights in June 2019.
While the numbers in debt over back to school costs remains steady at over a third (36%), parents appear to be more prudent with the debt they are running up. The average debt this year is €322 compared with €405 in 2018, a reduction of €83.
Looking at this in more detail, parents of primary school children say their average back to school related debt is €274, down from €367 in 2018. At second level, parents say their average debt is €357, down from €443 last year.
Of those parents in debt, almost a quarter (24%) say they have turned to a moneylender. While this figure is worrying, it is a 3% drop since last year. The average amount borrowed from moneylenders has also fallen slightly from €450 last year, to €439 this year.
Costs continue to be parents’ main concern at back to school time. Half of parents say it’s their biggest worry, up 4% on last year. One third (33%) say they will be forced to deny their children certain school items because they can’t afford them. This is up from 31% last year.
68% will cut out extracurricular activities, 30% won’t spend on school trips. 29% say new gym gear will get the cut while, for 22%, new shoes will be off the school list. This last item however is down considerably from the 42% in 2018.
Welcoming the recent publication of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills report on their examination of school costs, Paul Bailey, ILCU Head of Communications said, “We are calling on the Government to take more affirmative action to tackle the rising costs of sending children back to school. The recommendations outlined in the Joint Committee on Education and Skill’s report, if taken on board, will go a long way to easing this annual burden on parents.”
The most expensive item at second level was again books, coming in at €220 compared with €200 last year. Uniforms/clothing was next on the list at €200, up from €179 last year. School trips are set to cost parents €190 this year, compared with €159 last year.
At primary school level, parents appear to be cutting back on school lunches, with the spend falling from €142 last year to €102 this year. After-school care has also seen a drop from €140 to €117. Extra-curricular activities continue to be the biggest spend at €159. Up from €153 in 2018.
Uniforms/clothing is coming in as the second most expensive item at €133, up from €128 last year. This is followed by books at €123 – up just €1 on last year.
In general, parents say the biggest sacrifice they make in order to cover back to school costs is family holidays. 43% said they would reduce spending on a holiday, compared with 34% last year. 31% said they would cut spending on summer activities for the kids, similar to 30% last year. 8% said they would cut spending on food for the family, down from 15% last year.
Commenting on these findings, Paul Bailey said; “We are very encouraged to see that overall, the numbers approaching moneylenders has fallen by 1% since last year (3% down from 4%). The research also showed that those using credit cards to cover the Back to School spend has decreased by 5% (falling from 18% to 13%). We see this as a very positive response to the credit union message that they are an affordable, convenient and ethical alternative to credit cards and moneylenders. We would encourage all parents in need of financial assistance to contact their local credit union and forego moneylenders and credit cards completely.”