Minister’s new cost-saving measures
MINISTER for Education Richard Bruton published new rules aimed at reducing the cost of education for parents, with financial penalties for schools that do not comply.
Last April Minister Bruton, pictured below, said he believed that a greater emphasis should be placed on reducing the costs of school uniforms and other costs. The ‘carrot and stick’ style approach is expected to keep a lid on what parents have to pay for, which includes uniforms, books, sports gear and mobile technology devices such as tablets.
‘Schools have to do everything possible to keep costs down for parents, including the use of generic items, sew-on or iron-on crests, and making sure that various elements of the uniform can be purchased in multiple stores,’ Mr Bruton said.
‘In the Action Plan for Education
I have committed to the restoration of capitation payments. In restoring capitation payments, where schools have introduced these cost effective principles, they will receive a premium capitation payment.’
The announcement was part of a suite of measures taken by
Minister Bruton to take greater account of the needs of parents and students in the school system,
School authorities will be required to adopt the principles of cost-effective practice which will put a greater emphasis on reducing the cost of school uniforms and other costs.
These include: all elements of a school uniform should be purchasable from various stores; only iron-on or sew-on crests should be used; wherever possible, generic rather than branded items should be specified for items such as uniforms, clothing, IT tablets, sports equipment etc.); provide parents with a list of all required items and indicate the likely costs of these required items at best value stores; provide a book rental scheme; ban the use of workbooks which cannot be reused, where an exclusive supply arrangement applies, it should be tendered for regularly. The Board of Management in each school will have to review the cost of items which they require parents to purchase and to make this information available to the school community. Schools will consult with parents on their views and ask for suggestions on cost reduction initiatives. Parents will be asked for their views about school uniform costs, and other costs, through a questionnaire. Online surveys can be used by schools to quickly survey the views of parents, without any significant administrative overhead to the school.
Minister Bruton said that schools that have not adhered with the principles of cost-effective practice will receive a smaller increase in capitation.
In addition to making the cost of education more bearable schools which also be required to publish and operate a Parent and Student Charter which will include how any voluntary contributions are used.
Minister Bruton said: ‘I believe that full transparency in relation to the use of any voluntary contributions is important information for parents to have.
‘The Parent and Student Charter will require every school to set out a financial statement, which will include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.’
Although published in April schools which have already made arrangements for the next academic year have a small bit of leeway and can implement the rules from this September rather than have them up and running for the start of the new school year.
While the measures were welcomed by children’s charity Barnardos it said the measures didn’t go far enough.
June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos, said: ‘Barnardos has long campaigned to reduce the significant financial burden placed on parents to fund school books, uniforms, and all the other costs associated with sending a child to school. A circular to schools to be mindful of costs on parents is completely insufficient and lacks any vision or recognition by the State that schools are totally underfunded.
‘Barnardos has recommended to this Minister and others that it would cost just €103.2m to guarantee a free primary education for all children in Ireland. This is only an extra costper-pupil of just €185.
‘This investment would fulfil the Government’s Constitutional obligation to provide genuinely free primary education for all children. It would cover all school books, school transport fees, classroom resources fees, eliminate voluntary contribution fees and would restore the capitation grants to 2010 levels. If we are truly determined not to allow any child’s chance in life to be decided at birth by the income levels of their parents, we need Government investment and nothing less.’
‘While we welcome this as a small positive step and may lead to more schools taking measures to reduce the burden on parents, it fails to recognise the need for additional State investment.
‘We would urge the Minister to make the investments that are needed to truly ensure that schools can run appropriately and all pupils have what they need to learn without sending their parents into debt.’