Half-a-million schoolchildren will receive the newly announced government grant
By Niamh McNamara
Minister for Education Norma Foley has announced a new €54 million scheme to fund schoolbooks for primary school children.
The scheme grants €96 to parents of primary school students to aid in the purchase of schoolbooks and copybooks from any bookshop under the guidance of the child’s school.
Minister Foley said of the scheme, “The objective is about ensuring every child has the resources required to access education and also easing financial burdens surrounding the back-to-school costs which can be a cause of financial difficulty for many families each year.”
Ninety-six percent of primary schools in the country are included in this new scheme, including schools for children with special needs, and Educate Together schools.
In addition to the grant, schools are also being advised against requesting voluntary contributions from parents to fund the cost of schoolbooks, saving parents further school-related expenses.
Limerick primary school teacher Danielle McCarthy welcomed the scheme, saying: “There’s always been this ideal of ‘free education’ in Ireland, but the costs have been extortionate and created a real burden for parents.
“This will help students be seen more equally among their peers, and I think it will begin to break down a socio-economic discrimination culture within primary schools.”
The figure of €96 per student is based on the costs of a sample of schools surveyed, however, the sufficiency of this figure has been heavily disputed in the wake of the new scheme.
Book publishers have expressed that it will not adequately cover the cost of textbooks, workbooks, and e-learning tools.
A number of other bodies have also cited different figures, with Swiss insurance company Zurich estimating a cost of €190 per student per year for schoolbooks – almost double the amount awarded by the Government under the scheme.
Similarly, the Irish League of Credit Unions has published its own estimate of €110 per student.
Nonetheless, the assistance will likely be widely welcomed, with many parents of young children feeling the full force of the recent, rapid rise of the cost of living in Ireland.