Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has welcomed Minister Richard Bruton’s recent focus on the cost of sending a child to school, including uniforms and book lending schemes, but the Sinn Féin TD warned that school capitation funding must be restored to all schools as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“As far back as 2011 I was raising the need for back to school costs to be addressed by the Education Minister and I have continued to highlight the spiralling costs of school uniforms and school books, and the mounting costs of sending a child to school. Every year since then successive Ministers have promised to address these costs but hard pressed parents have yet to see any relief.

“In Sinn Fein’s alternative budgets and 2016 election manifesto we set out a range of available proposals, including the full restoration of capitation, ending voluntary contributions, increased funding for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, and increased funding to school book schemes and school meals.

“While I welcome Minister Bruton’s new found interest on this issue, I am extremely concerned that his approach may mean that schools will lose out on critical funding.

“Capitation rates to schools were cut by 11% by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour and these must be restored to all schools as a matter of urgency.

“The Minister had an opportunity to restore the capitation rate in the last budget and did not do so and many will fear that his linking capitation to school costs is simply another means to avoid increasing the capitation grant to some schools.

“His new approach will also introduce an element of inconsistency of funding with some schools potentially receiving more state funding than others.

“I welcome the fact that the Department of Education will issue its first ever, and long overdue, circular on the issue of school costs in the coming days. This also something that I have been calling for over the years

“However, there is a clear need to address this burning issue, the rip off costs of school uniforms, and the so called voluntary contributions, on a statutory basis in order to ensure consistency across the board for all schools.

“Despite statements to the contrary, the Parent and Student Charter Bill as envisaged by Minister Bruton will not require schools to prepare and publish a school uniform policy for example nor will it seek to reduce the over reliance of schools on voluntary contributions.

“These mixed messages from the Minister on school costs are of no help to parents and is another missed opportunity to address the scandalous cost of sending a child to school.”