Waterford parents getting into debt to cover back to school costs

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Waterford parents getting into debt to cover back to school costs

The survey was commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions

Nearly two thirds (63%) of Munster parents reported that the costs associated with back to school are a financial burden.

Just under a quarter of parents (24%) are reporting that they will go into debt to cover the costs of their children returning to school. Of these, 90% will incur debt ranging from €200 to over €500.  

Nearly three quarters (72%) of parents in the Munster region will be forced to cut out extracurricular activities for their children because they cannot afford them, which was considerably above the national average of 64%. More parents in Munster sacrifice spending on family holidays to cover back to school costs (38%) in comparison with the national average of 34%. 

Munster parents are the biggest spenders in the country when it comes to books and school lunches. 47% of primary school parents have an average spend of between €50 and €100 on books, while 32% spend an average of €50-€100 on school lunches. Among secondary school parents, 25% spend between €150 and €200 on books while 32% spend an average of €50-€100 on lunches. 

The findings were revealed in the annual Republic of Ireland school costs survey commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) and carried out by i-Reach Insights in June 2020 when 948 parents of school going children were surveyed. 

When it comes to methods of payment, 66% of Munster parents use their general monthly income to pay for back to school supplies (70% national average), with 34% drawing on their savings, which was the same as the national average. The use of credit cards at 20% is in line with the national average with just 2% taking a credit union loan, 1% taking out a bank loan and 1% saying they would turn to a moneylender. 12% of parents in Munster rely on the back to school allowance compared with the national average of 14%.  

64% of Munster parents are more likely to shop online for back to school supplies as they find it saves money (64%) and they get better deals (57%). 

Covid-19 findings 

The ILCU survey also highlighted concerns of parents brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly a quarter (24%) of parents in Munster reported that there has been a reduction in their household income as a result of Covid-19, higher than the national average of 22%. 42% have found they have coped reasonably well with home schooling during Covid-19. 

When it comes to children going back to school, 62% of Munster parents believe there will be a mix of home schooling and classroom for the new term while over half (55%) said that they would carefully consider the measures put in place in schools before deciding whether to send their children back to school. Both these figures are higher than the national findings. 

39% of Munster parents are worried about their child’s mental health for the upcoming term if children do not return to school in a full-time classroom setting, with a further 40% concerned about their children catching up on missed teaching. 35% are already concerned that their children have fallen behind in class as a result of home-schooling during the lockdown.   

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, 37% of Munster parents feel their children are spending too much time watching TV or on mobile devices (26%) as a result of being home-schooled.  

If schools do not reopen or only partially reopen, 39% of Munster parents stated that they are lacking resources for proper home schooling. These include educational resources (43%) and printing (32%). Nearly a third (30%) cited poor broadband coverage as a major concern in delivering effective home schooling.  

Survey reaction 

Commenting on this year’s findings, ILCU head of communications Paul Bailey said: “Of concern from the survey results is the amount of debt that parents are getting into to cover back to school costs with an average debt increase of €40 compared to last year. While the majority of parents fund back to school purchases from their general household income, the use of credit cards has increased from last year. I would encourage these parents to explore cheaper forms of finance such as a credit union loan as 2% of parents in Munster are already doing. 

"The overall spend is up again this year for both primary and secondary school and it is clear that parents continually have to make sacrifices to cover costs. We have seen a staggering 71% increase, from €117 to €200, in the cost of after school care for primary school children while so called voluntary contributions have increased by 25% to an average of €120 per child.  

"It remains to be seen if schools will reopen fully in September and this brings a number of challenges for parents in trying to manage home schooling and to balance work and child care commitments. Our survey shows a substantial number of parents are concerned that they don’t have the necessary resources for home schooling, including adequate broadband, in the event of schools remaining fully or partially closed. I would encourage any parent concerned about the costs of home schooling or back to school costs to contact their local credit union to see how they can help," Mr Bailey added.