Primary and secondary school children will soon be back in their classrooms this week, much to the relief of their parents, though not without some cause for financial alarm.
The cost of uniforms, books and fees have all gone up over the past year; in the case of private school fees, the rise has been nine per cent on average, according to a survey of 14 private secondary schools conducted by The Sunday Business Post.
Meeting those fees in particular is already difficult and will get harder if third level fees are re-introduced.
According to new survey from Irish Life and Amarach, which was conducted before the recent suggestion that third level fees may be introduced, 45 per cent of parents said they would take out a bank loan to fund third level education costs.
But even without the extra burden of private fees, a large number of Irish parents – 24 per cent – are unhappy with the Irish education system saying it does provide good value for money.
Nationally, 77 per cent say they would be willing to pay for grinds for their primary going children. This breaks down as 81 per cent of respondents in Ulster, 78 per cent in Dublin, 77 per cent in the rest of Leinster and 72 per cent in Munster and Connaught.
This school year, according to research by Schooldays.ie and Bank of Ireland revealed that the average parent of a primary school child attending the state system will pay a total of €1,231.94.
It breaks down as follows:
* Study books and materials (€123.44)
* Uniforms, shoes and sports gear (€125.50)
* Lunches (€610.30), and
* Fees and voluntary contributions (€132) and transport (€240.50).
Secondary school costs amount to €2,122 approximately with higher allocations in all categories, which were:
* Study books and materials (€169.31)
* Uniforms, shoes and sports gear (€317)
* Lunches (€1,152)
* Fees and voluntary contributions (€244), and
* Transport (€240.50).
Over the 14 years this total bill (without accounting for inflation) will reach €22,592.38. If you child goes to college, you can add on another €38,614, and that’s even before the re-introduction of fees.
Most parents muddle through with this huge financial burden, and the annual child benefit, currently €1,992 each for the first two children and €2,436 a month for third and subsequent children should cover most of primary school costs.
They find other ways to cut corners too: books that can be, are passed down to younger children, are purchased second-hand or can even be rented, if their child’s school participates in a book leasing scheme.
The parent pays a modest fee and/or refundable deposit that can be claimed if the books are returned in good condition at the end of the school year.
The School Books Grant Scheme from the Department of Social and Family Affairs is administered in mainly disadvantaged schools by the School Principal.
Last year over 250,000 primary and secondary school pupils benefited from the €14m allocated. Consult your principal if you believe you may qualify for the grant.
There is also a Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance available which will continue to operate until September 30th.
The parent must already be receiving certainly social welfare benefits, or be on a state training, employment or education scheme. This year the grant is worth €250 for younger children and €350 for older children.
Applications should be made to the Department of Education, Primary Administration 1, Cornamaddy, Athlone, Co Westmeath – 090 6483731 or online at www.education.ie.
The ideal way to meet the €38,614 estimated cost of educating a single child for 14 years, without resorting to loans or mortgage equity release, is to save your child benefit payments in the highest yielding bank deposit you can find.
Check out the likes of Anglo Irish Bank and Halifax for regular savings rates over five per cent. Continuing high market volatility and high charges make regular investing particularly risky these days. Quinn-Life.com continues to offer some of the lowest cost index funds, but your capital is not guaranteed.
A five per cent yielding bank deposit account will return €11,557 gross if you save €166 child benefit (for one child) every month.
If you have two children, your gross deposit return will amount to €23,145 at the end of year five.
Tax and inflation will eat into your return, but it should be intact at the end of the term, which is more than any of us can say with any certainty about the value of other assets like our houses, pension funds or other investment funds.
If you are afraid you might have to go into debt – even credit card debt – to meet all your child’s education costs this year, and you haven’t done a review of your annual income and expenditure, including the amount of tax you pay, you should do this as a matter of urgency.
Most of us don’t claim all our annual tax relief for medical and dental expenses, local authority charges of which bin charges are the most common (maximum €400) or even for trade union subscriptions (€70).
Many parents, remarkably, even fail to claim their €900 annual home carer’s credit for each child under the age of six.
If you think you are one of them, contact your local Revenue office (www.revenue.ie); you can retrospectively claim up to four years of unclaimed tax relief.