Four out of five parents say back to school costs are a financial burden

Four out of five parents feel the cost of sending their children back to school is a financial burden, while 12% will consider resorting to money lenders. Those are among the results of a detailed survey undertaken by the Irish League of Credit Unions. Cavan Credit Union is due to host a coffee morning event in the Market Square this Monday.

The research further reveals that, on average, primary school parents spend €166 on uniforms per child, or €258 per child for secondary school parents.

Here below, follows, a detailed summary of the research.


In the survey, parents stated that they believe uniforms / school clothing are the most expensive items to purchase for their children going back to school. Parents of primary school children are spending an average of €166 per child on uniforms/ clothing, up from €160 in 2014. Secondary school parents are spending an average of €258 per child on uniforms/ clothing, down from €266 in 2014.


Books are the second most expensive item on the list with parents of primary school children shelling out €106 on books, down slightly from €107 in 2014 and secondary school parents spending €213 on books, up significantly from €166 in 2014.


School lunches are the third most expensive item on the list, with primary school parents spending €116 per child in 2015, down from €122 in 2014. Secondary school parents are spending €147 per child, up from €134 in 2014.


<strong>School Item:</strong><strong>(2015| 2014| 2011)</strong><strong>All Parents</strong><strong>(Average Spend)</strong><strong>Primary School</strong><strong>(Average Spend)</strong><strong>Secondary&nbsp; School</strong><strong>(Average Spend)</strong>
<strong>1. Uniform / clothing</strong><strong>&euro;216 |</strong> <strong>&euro;218 |&euro;229</strong><strong>&euro;166 |</strong> <strong>&euro;160 |&euro;177</strong><strong>&euro;258 |</strong> <strong>&euro;266 |&euro;281</strong>
<strong>2. Books</strong><strong>&euro;162 |</strong> <strong>&euro;140 |&euro;182</strong><strong>&euro;106 |</strong> <strong>&euro;107 |&euro;125</strong><strong>&euro;213 |</strong> <strong>&euro;166 |&euro;238</strong>
<strong>3. School Lunches</strong><strong>&euro;134 |</strong> <strong>&euro;129 |n/a</strong><strong>&euro;116 |</strong> <strong>&euro;122 |n/a</strong><strong>&euro;147 |</strong> <strong>&euro;134 |n/a</strong>
<strong>4. ExtracurricularActivities</strong><strong>&euro;133 |</strong> <strong>&euro;163 |&euro;149</strong><strong>&euro;131 |</strong> <strong>&euro;152 |&euro;145</strong><strong>&euro;137 |</strong> <strong>&euro;169 |&euro;152</strong>
<strong>5. Transport Costs</strong><strong>&euro;124 |</strong> <strong>&euro;102 |&euro;109</strong><strong>&euro;89 |</strong> <strong>&euro;66 |&euro;81</strong><strong>&euro;142 |</strong> <strong>&euro;137 |&euro;138</strong>
<strong>6. After school care</strong><strong>&euro;121 |</strong> <strong>&euro;134 |n/a</strong><strong>&euro;112 |</strong> <strong>&euro;110 |n/a</strong><strong>&euro;130 |</strong> <strong>&euro;151 |n/a</strong>
<strong>7. Fees/voluntarycontribution</strong><strong>&euro;115 |</strong> <strong>&euro;120 |n/a</strong><strong>&euro;77 |</strong> <strong>&euro;82 |n/a</strong><strong>&euro;147 |</strong> <strong>&euro;153 |n/a</strong>
<strong>8. School Trips</strong><strong>&euro;109 |</strong> <strong>&euro;103 |&euro;105</strong><strong>&euro;63 |</strong> <strong>&euro;68 |&euro;62</strong><strong>&euro;160 |</strong> <strong>&euro;136 |&euro;148</strong>
<strong>9. Gym gear</strong><strong>&euro;89 |</strong> <strong>&euro;82 |&euro;70</strong><strong>&euro;68 |</strong> <strong>&euro;62 |&euro;61</strong><strong>&euro;109 |</strong> <strong>&euro;98 |&euro;79</strong>



81% of parents of school going children (primary & secondary) feel that the costs of sending their kids back to school is a significant financial burden. 32% of parents say they are likely to get themselves into debt to to cover this cost. The average amount borrowed is €360.


Financing ‘Back to School’ Costs

Monthly income (41%) continues to be the most common method used to pay for back to school supplies. This is followed by savings (25%), up from 21% in 2014. 12% use the back to school allowance and 20% will borrow money from a credit supplier (12% credit card, 5% credit union loan, 1% bank loan, 2% moneylender). Borrowing is most evident in parents of secondary school children, this group are also more likely to borrow from a moneylender.

Implications of Back to School Costs

72% of all parents admitted that back to school costs will negatively impact household bills and family plans, this is down from 74% in 2014. 70% (vs 80% in 2014) of parents have had to sacrifice their family holiday or children’s summer camps this year to cover the cost of sending their children back to school. Back to school expenses will also have a negative impact on 29% of household bill payments, up from 26% in 2014. Additionally, 16% will have to sacrifice spending on food to meet back to school expenses. While 2% say they use a moneylender to pay for back to school costs, the survey found that 12% of all parents would consider a the moneylender option to cover these costs.



Seven in 10 parents are expected to make a voluntary contribution amounting to an average €112 per child in 2015 (fall from €119 in 2014). Secondary schools are more likely to request voluntary contributions (77%) than primary schools (70%). Parents of secondary school children are required to pay higher contributions of €140 than parents of primary school children €82. Voluntary contributions across the board (primary & secondary) are down on 2014 figures.

Shopping for Better Value

Nearly half of Irish parents (47%) shop online for back to school items for their children (this represents an increase from 35% in 2011). Saving money and accessing better deals as well as convenience continue to be the main reasons why parents are shopping online.

Clothing retailers 

Despite a noticeable drop, Dunnes Stores continues to be perceived as the best value for school clothing (23%). Marks & Spencer remains second (17%) and Tesco is considered the third most popular place (14%) for the best value school clothing.

Where do Parents buy the bulk of their back to school supplies?

Again, Dunnes Stores (28%) comes out on top for parents when buying the bulk of their schools supplies. They are followed by Tesco (17%) and Marks & Spencer (12%).


Parents under pressure

42% of parents feel under pressure to buy branded school items over generic options for their children, up from 39% in 2014.  Secondary school parents feel the most pressure (49% in 2015, up from 46% in 2014)


Back to School Allowance

One quarter of parents of school going children are entitled to the back to school allowance (on par with 2014 figures).  15% of those parents who are eligible for the allowance say that it is insufficient to cover the costs of back to school.


School Support to Parents

74% of parents believe that schools do not support parents enough in keeping costs down. These negative attitudes are more pronounced in parents of secondary school children (81%) where the costs are more.


Technical Advancements in the Classroom

Two thirds of parents have expressed a preference for the use of laptops or e-readers in their children’s education experience, with more than 6 in 10 agreeing that using a laptop of tablet would make learning more effective. When it comes to school buildings and school facilities, three quarters of parents are happy with the overall quality provided.


Commenting on the results, Founder of the Irish Financial Review, Frank Conway said: “As the findings of this study reveal, many families across Ireland struggle to cover the cost of a child, or even several children going back to school and college. Costs can run into thousands and for some families, the only way of closing the financial gap is through debt including the use of moneylenders.  Where debt is used, the cost of items, including school uniforms can DOUBLE when expensive interest charges are factored in. The best option is to limit debt and where possible, know how to keep costs low by becoming ‘debt smart’.

For example:

1.       Work towards building a rainy day fund.

2.       Pay off debt as quickly as possible – and reduce interest charges.

3.       Pay on time and avoid late fees.

4.       Maintain a good personal credit record as this should ensure the access to the best loan offers.

5.       Plan ahead and shop smart – compare online and offline offers and know a deal when one comes along.


Speaking about the publication of the results, Ed Farrell from the ILCU said: “Back to school is an expensive time of year for parents and with household budgets already stretched, covering the considerable costs of school has become very challenging. 81% of parents feel that the cost of sending their children back to school is a significant financial burden. We would urge parents to shop around for the best value in back to school items like school books and uniforms.  Many parents have told us that they do a lot of their shopping online to avail of better value offers and many of the larger retailers will have good value offers available.  We recommend that you check what you have left over from last year and then make a list of everything you need to buy and stick to that list. Most importantly avoid using moneylenders.”


Monday, July 13th, will see the Cavan Credit Union event take place.


About the Research

The survey was conducted by Market Research Company iReach during the period June 2015 using iReach Consumer Decisions Research Panel which delivered 1,000 responses from adults in Ireland aged 18+ to 65+ and is nationally representative by Age, region, Gender and Social Class. This research has a confidence level of 95% and confidence interval of 4%.