New survey reveals back to school financial burdens

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Editorial Image

It may just have been a couple of short weeks since school broke up for the summer but many parents of school going children are already bracing themselves ahead of the back to school shopping season.

The cost of school going children to parents in Northern Ireland is a significant financial burden and can put pressure on other areas of the family budget.

The Irish League of Credit Unions has this year taken a look at just what the costs for both primary and secondary school children are.

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 £96 per child on uniforms/ clothing.

Secondary school parents are spending an average of £180 per child on uniforms/ clothing.

School lunches are costing primary school parents £131 and secondary school parents £156 while school trips have parents of primary school children forking out £86 and secondary parents £224.

71% of parents of school going children (primary & secondary) feel that the costs of sending their kids back to school is a significant financial burden.

27% of parents tend to get themselves into debt to cover this cost. The average amount borrowed is £320.

Monthly income (54%) continues to be the most common method used to pay for back to school supplies. This is followed by savings (19%) and credit card (15%).

Borrowing is most evident in parents of secondary school children.

Six in 10 parents admitted that back to school costs will negatively impact household bill payments and family plans in summer 2015.

Almost four in 10 parents have had to sacrifice their family holiday this year to cover the cost of sending their children back to school. 21% of household bill payments and 21% of summer activities.

Additionally 17% will have to sacrifice spending on food to meet back to school expenses.

Twelve per cent of all parents in Northern Ireland would consider turning to a moneylender to cover back to school costs.

As for school fees and contributions, seven in 10 parents are expected to make a contribution amounting on average £98 per child in 2015.

Secondary schools are more likely to request voluntary contributions (86%) than primary schools (64%). Parents of secondary school children are required to pay higher contributions of £119 than parents of primary school children £80.

Almost 6 in 10 parents in Northern Ireland shop online for back to school items for their children.

Saving money and accessing better deals as well as convenience are the main reasons why parents are shopping online.

74% of parents believe that schools do not support parents enough in keeping school costs down.

These negative attitudes are more pronounced in parents of secondary school children (80%) where the costs are more.

Speaking about the publication of the results, ILCU President, Brian McCrory said: “Back to school is an expensive time of year for parents in Northern Ireland and with household budgets already stretched, covering the considerable costs of school has become very challenging.

“71% 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, instead call into your local credit union who will advise of the options available to you.”