Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called on the government to take action against voluntary school contributions which are placing unfair financial pressure on families.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire alongside his colleague Matt Carthy TD have published legislation today which would prevent families being singled out for not being able to meet these often crippling costs.
The party is calling on the government to fund the education system properly, so that schools do not feel the need to fundraise to cover basic costs.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Today, we have published legislation to end the pressure on families to meet so-called voluntary contributions.
“This week, as children return to school, thousands of families will be getting requests from schools for voluntary contributions, which can put huge pressure of their finances.
“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 in a matter of weeks 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.
“One family were in contact, whose child this week had come home from school very upset, as they had been singled out from their peers and not given a school journal because their parents had not been in a position to pay the full contribution. This is unacceptable and must stop.
“The legislation we have published today would bring an end to the pressure on families to make these donations. 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.”
Teachta Carthy added:
“The reason that families are being put under this financial pressure, 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.
“I am calling on the government to do the right thing and finally give our schools the funding and resources that they need to give our children the education that they deserve. These unfair voluntary contributions must stop.
“Sinn Féin will stand up for families and ensure our education system is fit for purpose.”