The insistence of Education Minister, Ruairí Quinn, that he cannot do more to reduce the back-to-school costs faced by parents has been described as pathetic by Sinn Féin Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe
“It is simply not good enough,” Deputy Seán Crowe said, “that Minister Quinn insists it is down to parents to lobby schools so that they are forced to introduce more affordable ways of paying for school uniforms and text books.
“It is true that each School Board of Management is responsible for matters of school policy and governance but they are also responsible to the school patron and ultimately, to the Minister for Education.
“Yet Minister Quinn has stuck to his worn out and indifferent position that he cannot intervene and that he has no statutory powers to compel schools to adopt any particular policy regarding school uniforms.
“He has adopted this pathetic response despite the fact that he is permitted, under the 1998 Education Act, to issue recommendations on this (or any relevant) issue.
“This proactive approach was taken in 2008 in relation to school uniforms when the then Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Integration Policy jointly agreed recommendations on this issue.
“Recommendations were issued following extensive consultation with schools, management bodies and others and stipulated that whilst uniform policy was left for schools there should be meaningful engagement with the wider the school community when drawing up school uniform policy.
“Surely it is therefore possible for this current Minister to build on this and intervene directly with school boards of management on vital issues like back-to-school costs.
“The findings of the recent Barnardo’s Back to School survey, which highlights the real cost to many parents when clothing and equipping a child. They found that on average a parent spent a whopping €400 for a fourth-class pupil and almost €800 for a child starting second level.
“This is unacceptable and beyond the resources of many hard pressed families.
“Minister Quinn needs to come out from behind his comfortable desk and start doing something useful. His empty rhetoric at this particular time of year is simply not good enough especially when the punitive back-to-school costs are driving families to desperate measures like borrowing from illegal moneylenders.”