Mayor calls for primary education to be made free

'It should not be the responsibility of parents to make up for the failure of the Government to adequately fund schools'

The Mayor of Galway Cllr Niall McNelis.

The Mayor of Galway Cllr Niall McNelis.

The Mayor of Galway, Niall McNelis, has called for the banning of the ‘voluntary contribution’ parents are expected to make to schools, and demanded the Government provide school books at no cost, ahead of the new term in September.

The Mayor, who is a Labour city councillor for Galway City West, made his call following the publication of new proposals by the Labour Party to properly introduce free primary education. “Every child in the State should have equal access to a quality education,” Cllr McNelis said. “Parents should not be burdened with hidden costs for the basic running of a school, and the books that are central to learning.”

According to Barnardos’ annual ‘School Costs’ survey from 2017, 56 per cent of primary school parents are asked for a voluntary contribution to help fund schools. Cllr McNelis said it should not be “the responsibility of parents to make up for the failure of the Government” to adequately fund schools, via the so-called ‘voluntary’ contributions. He is also calling for the capitation grant to be restored to its previous level of €200 per pupil. It is currently €170 a year.?

The cost of schoolbooks is an on-going issue of concern, and according to Cllr McNelis, the average cost per child of a set of schoolbooks is €85, and while more than 70 per cent of primary school parents now have access to a book rental scheme, it still requires a payment of around €50 a year for an essential part of children’s education.?

“Labour are proposing that a free schoolbooks scheme be extended to all primary schools and in two years’ time roll it out in secondary schools. The details of how this would operate are outlined in our policy statement,” Cllr McNelis said. "Given our Constitution specifically provides for free primary education for our children, this is an outrageous situation. It is becoming an increasing burden for numerous families, many of whom are already struggling with day to day living costs, including high rents.”

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