Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD and Sinn Féin TD for Cavan-Monaghan Matt Carthy have called on the government to take action against voluntary school contributions which are placing unfair pressure on families’ finances.
The Education (Voluntary Contributions) Bill 2021, which will be debated in the Dáil this evening, would prevent families being singled out for not being able to meet these often crippling costs.
Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“With the rising cost of living, parents will be starting to wonder how they will meet the costs of the return to school this summer. One cost that puts huge pressure on families is the school voluntary contribution.
“Year on year, families are being crippled by requests for contributions of very often well over €100 or €200 per child, and even as much as €300-400 in some cases.
“These are huge sums for families to be expected to pull together – particularly at the same time as rising costs of energy, fuel, groceries – and put serious strain on families’ finances.
“We know that in reality, these contributions are voluntary in name only. In some instances, students and families can be denied certain services and extra-curricular activities and they can face stigma.
“The reason that this is happening is because the government has consistently underfunded our schools to the point that they feel they have to fundraise just to cover the basics. It has to end.
“This evening in the Dáil, Teachta Carthy and I will bring our Voluntary Contributions Bill to 2nd stage, to try to bring an end to the pressure on families to make these donations. I am calling on TDs from all parties and none to support our Bill this evening. “
Teachta Carthy added:
“Our Bill will place an obligation on schools to make clear to families that these contributions are voluntary. It will ensure that no child is stigmatised or denied opportunities because their parents are not in a position to make a contribution.
“Our Bill will prohibit schools from contacting parents more than once per school year looking for contributions, and will work to end the stigma by disallowing any reminders of these contributions to be sent home with their children.
“It will ensure transparency, by placing an obligation on schools and the Department of Education to publish online the total amount collected in voluntary contributions and how this has been spent in each school.
“Crucially, our Bill sets out a pathway for bringing about an end to voluntary contributions for good once capitation levels are adequately restored by Government.
“I am calling on the government to do the right thing and support our Bill this evening; these unfair voluntary contributions must stop.
“Sinn Féin will continue to listen to the calls of families for change and for a break from the spiralling cost of living crisis. We will stand up for families and ensure our education system is fit for purpose.”