Fianna Fáil has claimed that the Government’s failure to commit to a Minor Works Scheme for schools is resulting in higher back-to-school costs for parents.

According to the party’s Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue, schools are being forced to increase the voluntary contributions asked of parents in order to just keep the school running.

Deputy McConalogue is calling on the Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to confirm without further delay whether or not the Minor Works Grant will be available to schools in the autumn.

“The Minor Works Grant provides essential funding to schools to allow them to operate on a day to day basis. Schools have been denied this basic funding for two out of the last four years, and once again this year there is no budgetary provision for the scheme in the autumn,” said Deputy McConalogue.

“The result is that schools planning for the next academic year are being forced to increase the voluntary contributions asked of parents in order to just keep their schools running. This means significant increases in back to school costs for parents.

“A new survey from Barnardos shows that many parents are struggling with soaring back-to-school costs. So called ‘voluntary contributions’, added to the cost of books and uniforms, place an unreasonable burden on parents. Without the Minor Works Grant, schools are losing an average of €52 per pupil. There is no doubt that parents are picking up the tab for this.

“Last year the Government eventually found some money for the Minor Works Scheme well after the school year was underway. While this provided some welcome last minute relief for many schools, it was too late for parents who had already paid their voluntary contributions at that stage. Schools across the country are budgeting for the upcoming school year right now. They need to know without further delay if they will have access to the Minor Works Scheme or if they will be relying on voluntary contributions from parents.”