A few weeks ago I posted on preparing for back to school. It was filled with tasks that need to be done and some tips on getting there. The one thing it was silent on was cost. The total cost of going back to school. It wasn’t that I forgot about them – it just wasn’t the focus of the post.
I mentioned how I left buying shoes until August to get the best fit. I bought them last Thursday. Two pairs of shoes for each of my two kids. Total €168.00. Gulp! That certainly brought costs onto my radar!
Coupled with this, the fabulous Irish Parenting Bloggers were discussing the actual costs of going back to school and so a blog march was born to discuss / highlight / rant (!) about the varying costs of back to school and the differing approaches of schools in Ireland (with a little international comparison for good measure) and of course the action (or inaction) of the Government to address the issue. A full listing of all the posts on this march can be found below and as more posts are added the list will be updated.
For the last two years I have had one child in primary school. If I’m honest while the costs do add up it didn’t greatly rouse me in any way – with hindsight there are probably two reasons for that. First, I only had one child going to school – what about families with three and four kids going to school? Secondly, I was working full time and we were a two income household with (thankfully) not too many money issues.
However, in recession Ireland there are many families not in that position with many families with no income other than social welfare.
So how do the costs add up? If I look at all the items featured in the preparation post and quantify them it looks like this:
I spent approx €100 on books this year. My daughters school does operate a Book Rental Scheme which I paid €13 for but it only includes a limited number of books. I believe my sons school has a scheme also but it only kicks in from Senior Infants – his second year in school.
My two kids have two uniforms – a track suit and a uniform. The track suits are crested – the only crested item. I don’t mind too much but if there was any move towards cresting anything else I probably wouldn’t be happy! Each track suit was €29.95. I only buy 1 as they only wear it two days a week.
The uniforms are thankfully basic. White shirts, grey trousers / pinafore and grey jumper/ cardigan. All bought in Dunnes Stores this year. Total cost €58 (I didn’t buy my daughter a pinafore as her two current ones are fine on her). This included red polo shirts for under the track suit and tights.
TOTAL COST: €110
As mentioned above I spent €168 on shoes. A pair of black school shoes and a pair of runners each. It’s steep but I have to admit to liking good quality school shoes at hopefully that’s it for the rest of the year.
TOTAL COST: €168
Accessories and everything else
I am finding its the accessories and everything else that really tip you over into crazy spend. Without school I would still clothe my kids and kit them out in shoes (okay not the same choices but you know what I mean?). When it comes to accessories suddenly you have a €10 Spider-Man lunch box and it wouldn’t be good enough to not have the matching (€5) drink bottle and of course a €15 Spider-Man school bag. Before Peter Parker could even change into Spider-Man we have spent another €30 and then there’s another one!
I couldn’t tell you how much I’ve spent on stationery. Pencil cases, Pritt stick, crayons, copy books – there must be at least another €15 in that haul.
Last and certainly not least is the School contribution – to cover photocopying, insurance materials and so on. €40 and €50 respectively for my son and daughter so there goes nearly another €100.
TOTAL COST: €170
Of course we haven’t even set foot in the classroom again and we have already spent the guts of €700 and no doubt there will be requests throughout the year to contend with. This year we are an income down with my career break and a school child up – those financials don’t have any happy ending.
The scary thing is that these costs are about the norm in Ireland for my kids ages. A recent study by Barnardos shows this and it looks like as they get older it is not going to get any easier.
I’m not sure what can be done about it. Can there be a savings scheme so that parents can buy stamps throughout the year to go towards back to school – so many shops and companies do it for Christmas. Can the Government intervene? Can schools look at their uniform policies? Fingers crossed something good happens in relation to school expenses and they start to move in a downward direction!
Other Irish Parenting Bloggers posts:
Sunday, 25th August: The Clothesline – It All Adds Up
Monday, 26th August: The Mama’s Hip – Homeschooling haul and chatter
Monday, 26th August: Awfully Chipper – Back to school in America
Tuesday, 27th August: Learner Mama – Back to school – A costly business
Tuesday, 27th August: Office Mum – School Costs & The Double Income Contradicton
Tuesday, 27th August: Musings And Chatterings – Crests and costs – starting big school part 1
Wednesday, 28th August: Serious Wagon – Back to School Costs
Wednesday, 28th August: Dreaming Aloud – Changing Gear
Thursday, 29th August: My Country Girl Ramblings – Back to School The Hidden Costs
Friday, 30th August: Jazzygal – Back to School Costs (a lot)