We are back in the ‘Back to School’ period once more: the costs of uniforms, text books, school contribution payments and bus tickets prove a burden for parents throughout the country at this time of year.
However, people, on anecdotal evidence gathered in recent years. are getting more sensible, as are the school authorities in terms of passing on the past year’s school books to the next class.
In the past, the Department of Education appeared to be actively working with school book publishers in amending text books, albeit in a minor way, but still sufficient to lead to the publication of new editions, thus incurring additional expense on parents.
This meant that many families with two or more children just a few years apart in age couldn’t use the same book.
However, the curriculum is changing less frequently as a result of parent protests and sustained lobbying by the National Parents Council.
The Mandarins in the Department of Education should plan such changes so that if a curriculum amendment is brought about that it then remains in place for several years as opposed to placating publishers via insubstantial ad hoc changes.
School uniforms, thankfully, are getting less expensive as schools endeavour to get good better value from uniform suppliers.
Credit Unions are also most helpful in such circumstances for parents needing extra cash at this time of year, primarily those with a good credit history.
For those dependent on social welfare, the Community Welfare Office faces many similar demands in such cases.
There are other challenges facing parents and their children, with a great deal of them involving money such as the need to keep abreast (be it required or down to peer pressure) with the latest advances in laptops, PCs and tablet devices.
Of course, there remains an urban/rural divide when it comes to broadband provision and schools cannot make students too web-dependant for lessons or study until such time as the broadband network had been sufficiently improved.
Schools can also assist in working with the ‘sharing economy’, i.e. where old computers that might end up being dumped could be given to donated to smaller schools or indeed to families who may require an upgrade on a machine but cannot afford a new model.
In fact, Parents Councils can prove most helpful on this matter and put the word out for older computers – and even good quality uniforms can be sought by parents for less well off families.
In addition to back to school grants, there is an onus for individual responsibility and vigilance when it comes to parents’ spending.
However, a deferred payment method for additional classes such as music or subscriptions for sports clubs, which could be paid over a full season as opposed to straight up in one lump sum would also lighten the burden on parents.
Why should all such monies need to be paid up front at this time of year, when there are so many other costs facing parents at this time of the year, so School Principals, Boards of Management and sports club should take note.
This time of year ought to be viewed in a positive way given the new energy that’s in such great abundance after the summer break. Pupils should enjoy it, and parents shouldn’t feel too overburdened either.