More than one in four parents in debt to cover back-to-school costs

Almost one-third of those in debt owe more than €500

Back-to-school-costs: Aotal of 56 per cent of those polled pointed to the higher cost of food for children for school lunches as having the biggest impact on the rising back-to-school costs. Photograph: iStock

Almost two-thirds of Irish parents say back-to-school costs are a financial burden with one in four going into debt to ensure their children will have what they need when schools reopen at the end of next month, according to a new survey.

The annual research from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) shows that covering back-to-school costs is a financial burden for 62 per cent of parents.

It also suggests that almost half the parents who are struggling to manage costs say they have cancelled or reduced non-essential services or activities to pay the school bills.

The total back-to-school spend in 2024 was put at €1,086 per child for primary school parents and €1,401 per child for secondary school parents.

READ SOME MORE

The findings show a €113 increase for secondary school parents compared with 2023, but a €66 drop in spend for primary school parents.

The fall for parents of younger children is attributed to the introduction of the Free School Books scheme for the 2023-2024 academic year for primary schools and an increase in the number of schools participating in the hot meals scheme.

A total of 56 per cent of those polled pointed to the higher cost of food for children for school lunches as having the biggest impact on the rising back-to-school costs, followed by increasing costs of new school uniforms and school trips or activities.

The research also suggests that just over half of parents feel pressured into buying branded clothes, shoes and other items for their children, up 11 per cent from 2021.

The chief executive of the ILCU, David Malone, said the research indicated that Government initiatives “do seem to have eased the financial burden for some families”.

However, he said “there is a still an onerous cost burden on parents with increasing levels of associated debt linked to schooling and the cost of living”.

He pointed to 28 per cent of parents going into debt to cover back-to-school costs, with the average debt coming in at €368, up €62 on last year.

“The issue of debt is significant,” Mr Malone said. “And it should be noted that 32 per cent of parents in debt have debts of over €500 to cover these costs.”

He said the research found that 86 per cent of parents with schoolchildren say their income or household costs have been affected by rising costs of living, with 91 per cent of those affected experiencing additional grocery costs and 89 per cent seeing additional costs to utility bills.

The study was conducted by i-Reach in June 2024 among 716 parents who responded to the survey.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor