Back to School Costs (a lot) - a Blog March.

I've recently joined the forthright and engaging group that is the Irish Parenting Bloggers and have decided to join them in a Blog March, which was instigated by Wholesome Ireland on the subject of 'Back to School Costs'.


Because I believe this is an area of great disparity and something that should be openly discussed. The findings of which could then perhaps be used in a discussion on a related topic?

So without further ado and for what it's worth, there now follows the cost of sending a Second Year student back to secondary school in the post-recession - as some would have you believe, or mid-recession as the rest of us know - year of 2013.

Statutory and 'Voluntary' Costs

Amenity charge of €170 to cover 24 hr personal injury insurance, photocopying, student journal, stationary, Parent's Council membership etc., etc.

A 'voluntary' charge which has been 'reduced' to €300 (per family). I always feel that's a tad unfair to one-child families, or those with children in different schools!

I understand the enormous costs to schools to continually provide a high standard of education to our children, especially with continued Government cutbacks to Capitation Grants etc. They must make up this shortfall somehow. Now I know we all laugh/groan at the 'Voluntary' title of this payment, however  it is voluntary. Some schools won't always spell it out but, if anyone genuinely has an inability to pay due to financial hardship then they should talk to their child's school.

Uniform Costs

The cost of 2 trousers, 2 shirts, 1 jumper with integrated crest (one size up that will do next year too) and a spare tie was €143. Note: As the more expensive school shop trousers are the best fit I have no choice but to buy them, besides I think it's worth it, in the long run, to buy good quality school clothes.) 

Thankfully I was spared the cost of the obligatory, crested school coat, which was only introduced last year.

The Obligatory, Crested School Coat

A number of secondary schools have introduced these in recent years, and at €55-€80 a pop they are expensive. As I intend for my boy to only need 2 of these in his secondary school years I am committed to piling books on his head, thereby stunting his growth in order to achieve this aim!

Introducing these extra costs at a time when most families are financially struggling seems to be a tad insensitive. However I will admit that it does look very smart and gives a professional look. It may even instill a sense of pride in the students? Well, in some students!

It also makes the student's school easily identifiable when they are traveling to and from school. When in school uniform, which clearly shows the name on their jackets, they are representing the school, in my opinion. Therefore any 'messing' or 'carrying on' - you know how teenagers are- will be answerable to their school principal ;-) The message in this house is 'if you wouldn't do it in school then don't do it travelling to and from school'. Or at home, for that matter!

Text Books

Most books were purchased last year but we still needed 3 more at a cost of €58.

I only now realise that the text books that were available on rental scheme last year, for subjects they had to make a choice on at the end of First Year, will now have to be purchased for this year. Estimated cost of these outstanding purchases, plus a couple of other books yet to be decided on, is €80.

If all books were available on a rental scheme it would be a lot cheaper.

The issue surrounding 'new editions' needs to be sorted out too. Some parents buy a brand new set of 'new edition' books for their First Year child, only to find that they are the same as the books their Fourth Year child is finished with. Such a waste.

Of course, if all students could swap their books for a digital schoolbag scheme, like in this Rush school  it would solve a lot of issues. We might even find that the term 'Free Downloadable Content' (DLC's to the uninitiated) could be applied to school books as well as to console games, thereby solving the 'new edition' issue!


Although I love a good bargain I always invest in a good pair of shoes every year, with the intention of them lasting him the whole twelve months. As my plan is working out so well I'm sticking to it! The cost of a pair of new school shoes for the coming school year was €60 (reduced from €70, so kind of a bargain!)


The one area I get to do some bargain shopping, in Heaton's Sportworld no less!

White soled/non marking runners are a non-negotiable requirement of most schools, especially if they have a brand new sports hall. The shoe section manager will tell you that it's a myth, all runners are non-marking. A bargain pair at €15 kept everyone happy!

Track suit bottoms and shin guards: €30.

T Shirt, sweatshirt and gear bag etc; all from last year.

As he will most probably need a new pair of football boots before the year is out (he doesn't play football outside of P.E.) I'm including an estimated cost of €30.

School Bag

Another area in which I'm prepared to spend money, in order to ultimately save it. Last year I purchased a supposedly good quality, sturdy bag at a cost of €40 that I intended to last him his secondary school years! The zips started to unravel by Christmas and the bag was totally unusable by May.

The school shop exchanged the bag, without question or receipt, for a slightly more expensive Jansport bag. Did you know that Jansport have a 30 year guarantee on their bags? Well, they do .... and it will most likely be put to good use in this house!

Copy Books and Incidentals.

Difficult to quantify. Some hardback copy books are required along with science and art books, geometry sets, padlock for locker (€18!) etc;

Therefore I'm including a very conservative estimate here of €50.

Plus the cost of locker hire at €20.

There are other costs during the school year with regard to sponsorship events, fundraising and school trips etc., etc.

Extra Curricular Activities.

As these are voluntary they cannot be included. I will say though, our school provides quite an extensive range of these activities at a reasonable cost. Some of them are even free.

I will also point out that for some students with additional needs, such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ASD and Aspergers (for example), some of these activities (e.g. swimming, martial arts and drama) are, quite frankly, surrogate occupational and speech therapies. Therapies that are extremely difficult to get from the HSE, for this age group.

To conclude: the 'Back to School Costs' for a Second Year student in 2013 amounts to €956, plus incidentals.

The costs last year were approximately €1100.

Child Benefit for a one child family for 2013 is €1560.

Therefore it is safe to say that approximately 61% (plus the cost of incidentals and beneficial extra-curricular activities) of Child Benefit is required to pay for 'free' education for a secondary school going child in Ireland.

So, Dear Government Ministers (past, present and future) and any Michael O'Leary supporters out there, the next time you want to threaten discuss any cuts to Child Benefit, I will stand tall and shout from the highest rooftop:

                                               HANDS OFF OUR CHILD BENEFIT.


If you'd like to read what all the other participants in this blog march have to say on this issue then please, click on the links below:

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



  1. It is just too costly, and it doesn't have to be. Here, as a teacher, I've always advocated for going with a minimum of school supplies the kids have to bring, but I was always outvoted by other teachers.

  2. Ouch, those cost are horrendous. Umm.. good luck with trying to stunt your boy's growth!! :-)

  3. Gawd! I feel lucky that my special kids do not need any of that stuff! Well except for 2 x Jansport bags we bought in 2004, that have been washed in the washing machine 9 times (once a year)

    I did spend €25,000 on home based ABA therapy though, that we borrowed from the bank for "home improvements" in those mad years when banks would lend for such things. No chance of that now xx

  4. @Shelly: You're right, 'it doesn't have to be'. We need more teachers like you!

    @Bright Side of Life: Aren't they? It differs so much between primary and secondary schools (and also within both sections) that I can only speak from our experience and give an estimate of 60% of child benefit for public secondary schools. I reckon I'm not far off. And I have no hope of stunting his growth!! Towering over me he is...

    @Lisamaree Dom: Yes.... Jansport is the business!
    Horrendous what you had to do. And what do parents who need specialist care for their children, that the state won't, can't and viciously cut back on, supposed to do now?

    Dreadful.... makes me so mad!

    Will you be joining me on my rooftop?!

    Thanks for your comments :-)

    xx Jazzy

  5. I haven't added up the total cost of my son starting secondary school this week - but the numbers look very similar. And he attends a Deise school where many of the families would be in receipt of the back to school allowance of a princely €200. I wonder how they fund the rest of it?

    Luckily I don't really have any school-related charges for Smiley (special school again) and I'm just trying not to think about this year's college registration charge for my eldest - €2,538....

    Thanks for the on-going support for the child benefit campaign too :) xx

  6. @Looking for Blue Sky: Good question.

    Yes, college is the next step, a mere 5 years away. If that's what he wants. They're no longer children then though and we're no longer in receipt of Child Benefit. And that's another thing, as pointed out in a comment on my facebook page... we lose CB in 6th year when they turn 18.

    So glad you spotted my link to PACUB. That was especially for you.... and ultimately all of us ;-)

    Thanks so much for your comment, very mush appreciated as always :-)

    xx Jazzy

  7. Wow. It all adds up doesn't it?? :/ x

  8. @BavarianSojourn: It sure does. Thanks for reading!

    xx Jazzy

  9. I'm always amazed by the cost of school supplies!


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