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04th Aug 2022

Children should not be shamed if they can’t pay voluntary contribution fee

Kat O'Connor

There’s nothing ‘voluntary’ about the school contribution fee.

As the summer winds down, more and more parents are preparing (and dreading) the back-to-school season. There is only a matter of weeks to go until the kids are back in school, but before that happens parents have the school shopping to get done. New school shirts, the school bag case, the HB pencils, and the black patent shoes. The list is never-ending and it’s also one that puts parents under serious financial pressure.

It’s been quite some time since I was in school, but I can still remember how stressed my parents used to be when it came to back-to-school shopping. On top of purchasing new uniforms, shoes, bags, and books, they also had to fork out for the ‘voluntary’ school contribution fee. It’s one expense that tips many parents over the edge. The additional fee may be called voluntary but is it really?

The fee isn’t voluntary because parents are shamed into paying it.

Barnardos recently called for the fee to be scrapped because of the pressure it is placing on parents. I remember my family had to pay the fee in installments because it simply wasn’t possible to pay for it straight away. Most families can’t, but why don’t schools do something about it? In a recent study by Barnardos, the charity revealed that 70% of parents don’t feel like the contribution fee is voluntary. And I couldn’t agree more. The fee isn’t voluntary because parents are shamed into paying it. From my own personal experience, any pupil that didn’t pay the fee was left without things like their locker or their school journal until it was paid in full. I understand that schools need more support from the Government, but is singling children out really fair?

Is putting this pressure on parents right? The rising cost of living is already putting immense pressure on parents, and the last thing any family needs to worry about is this supposed voluntary fee. The last thing any child needs is to feel isolated and left out in school. I still remember when my own sister came home from school and told our parents that her school journal was taken off her because they hadn’t paid the ‘voluntary’ fee in full. Some parents have no choice but to knock €10 or €20 off the fee every month. Some of us can’t even afford to pay it, full stop, but parents continue to scrimp and save to make sure their children get the best education possible, and the best school experience possible.

School is there to educate and encourage children so why can’t the Government make this chapter of their lives less stressful by scrapping this fee completely?