The expense of equipping kids for going back to school is getting so onerous that parents are beginning to take on debt in order to cover it. Although many of the purchases are listed as optional, families worldwide are concerned that not procuring them will have an impact on their children’s academic performance and attempt to buy them anyway.
According to Charlie Weston writing for Ireland’s Independent, the costs of buying everything on the list of required and suggested items for students entering their first year of secondary school is now up to 800 Euros as reported by the children’s charity Barnardos. Even though this number hasn’t gone up substantially over last year, in the last 12 months families in Ireland have increasingly felt the pinch from falling income due to the country’s continuing economic woes. As a result they feel that taking on debt is the only way to deal with the issue.
And the survey found that parents are angry that they are forced to go to expensive, specialised shops to buy uniforms instead of being able to buy them in better-value chain stores.
Crested jumpers are €45, more than three times the cost of a plain jumper in a department store, the survey found.
Getting a child equipped to go into junior infants is setting the average parent back €350. For a child going into fourth class in primary school, the cost is €400.
Required school books and uniforms continue to make up the bulk of the expense, but voluntary fees and well as transportation costs are also creeping up. Fergus Finlay, the head of Barnardos, explained that falling incomes are making it harder for parents to afford back to school shopping even if those have stabilized. At the same time, the government stipend that covers school shopping was sliced by half in the last budget shifting more of the burden on the already stretched families.
Mr Finlay said: “There continues to be an expectation that parents can afford these costs, but the survey paints a different picture.
“It is a hugely stressful time for parents as many are forced into debt, forgo bills and take out loans in order to meet these costs. They are afraid their child’s education will suffer if they don’t have everything they need.”
Huge frustration among parents was uncovered in the survey over the inability to pass on books because of new editions being printed.
Among the complaints are the high price of books being selected by teachers for use in their courses as well as requirements that students purchase workbooks that can’t be reused. Although a book lending program exists on the primary school level, only about half of the country’s parents have access to them.
In the United States, school supply prices are rising, but parents are cutting back spending for an overall drop in sales.