Over a quarter (27%) of Irish parents are getting into debt to cover the costs of back to school. While this figure is down from 36% in 2019, the average debt parents find themselves in has increased by €40 from €357 to €397. Of this 27% in debt, over four fifths (81%) have debts of over €200 with over a quarter of these having debts of over €500.
This is not surprising as back to school costs continue to rise for parents, with the overall spend on school items for primary school students at €1,123, up €174 from last year. In secondary schools’ parents average spend is €1,467, up €68 on last year.
The top expense this year for parents of primary school children is after school care at an average of €200 up from €117 in 2019. For second level parents the biggest expense is books at €196 down from €220 last year. Voluntary contributions for primary schools have increased by 25% to an average of €110 per child from €88 in 2019, with secondary school contributions remaining at an average of €140.
Over two thirds (69%) of Irish parents pay for their children’s back to school supplies from their general monthly income with 20% using their credit card, up from 13% in 2019. The use of savings has grown from 27% to 34%, 6% take a credit union loan, down from 9%, with those turning to moneylenders remaining at 3%.
66% of parents say that covering the cost of back to school is a financial burden, although encouragingly this is down from 78% last year. Almost 4 in 10 (37%) consider the costs associated with back to school as their main concern in the lead up to getting their children ready to return to school, down from 50% in 2019. Interestingly, there has been an increase in parents being concerned amount managing their schedule at 33% up from 20% last year.
The findings were revealed in the annual Republic of Ireland school-costs survey commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) and carried out by i-Reach Insights in June 2020 when 948 parents of school going children were surveyed.
The results of the survey also revealed that 66% of parents shop online for school supplies, a rise of 15% from 2019, with respondents citing convenience (59%), saving money (59%) and the availability of better deals (56%) as the main reasons for doing so.
Cutting back on family holidays is still one of the biggest sacrifices that families make to cover back to school costs at 34%, with a quarter cutting back on summer camps. 64% have had to deny their children extracurricular activities with 38% cancelling school trips to help fund back to schools costs.
44% of parents say they feel pressured into buying branded clothing, footwear and other items for their children as opposed to generic or own brand goods, while more than 2 in 3 (69%) believe that schools don’t do enough to help parents keep the costs of going back to school down, an increase of 5% from 2019.
The ILCU survey also highlighted concerns of parents brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over a fifth (22%) of Irish parents reported that there has been a reduction in their household income as a result of Covid-19. A similar number (21%) are finding the extra cost of feeding their children when home-schooling to have had the biggest effect on household finances.
When it comes to children going back to school, 59% of parents believe there will be a mix of home schooling and classroom for the new term while nearly half (49%) said that they would carefully consider the measures put in place in schools before deciding whether to send their children back to school.
42% of parents are worried about their child’s mental health for the upcoming term if children will not be returning to school in a full-time classroom setting with a further 41% concerned about their children catching up on missed teaching. 42% of parents are already concerned that their children have fallen behind in class as a result of home-schooling during the lockdown, while 23% said they would struggle with returning to work if schools don’t reopen fully.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, 36% of parents feel their children are spending too much time watching TV or on mobile devices (32%) as a result of being home-schooled. A third of parents (33%) also believe their children are missing their friends from school and may be lonely as a result.
If schools do not reopen or only partially reopen, 38% of parents stated that they are lacking resources for proper home schooling. These include educational resources and materials (38%) and printing (35%). Nearly a third of respondents cited poor broadband coverage as a major concern in delivering effective home schooling.
ILCU survey shows marked increase in average debt of parents coping with Back to School costs
- Over a quarter (27%) of Irish parents find themselves in debt in order to cover the costs of back to school for their children, with 8% having debts of over €500.
- The average debt parents find themselves in to cover the costs of back to school is €397, an increase of €40 from last year.
- Parents now spending €1,467 per secondary school child – up €68 on last year.
- At primary school level, spending has increased by €174 and now stands at €1,123 per child.
- 69% of parents believe schools don’t do enough to keep costs down.
Covid-19 related concerns
- 42% of parents are worried that their children will fall behind in class as a result of home schooling over the past few months.
- Over half (59%) of parents believe there will be a mix of home schooling and classroom for the new term.
- 49% will carefully consider the measures put in place in schools before deciding whether to send their children back to school.
- Over a third of parents said they are not equipped with sufficient resources if full or part-time home-schooling becomes the norm with 29% citing poor broadband as a major concern.