Hidden School Costs – The True Cost of Free Education

Kellie Kearney

May 9, 2018

The hidden school costs for a free education save money tips on buying school books

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We are led to believe education in Ireland is ‘free’. But once your child goes to school, the hidden school costs soon become all to apparent. Between books, uniforms and voluntary contributions, each school year is getting more expensive. I’ve currently only got one child in school, she’s in second class now and you wouldn’t believe all the hidden school costs there are throughout the year.

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School Trips

school tours hidden school costs

Between museums, field trips and school tours, the euro’s add up throughout the year. Last year alone my daughter’s school tour was €20, she was seven.

While some trips to museums are free parents need to pay for travel expenses and it all adds up throughout the year especially if you have more than one in school.

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School Books

the hidden school costs books

This one is a bugbear for most parents in Ireland, the cost of ‘free’ education really hits home for those who don’t have book rental schemes in their schools.

Only 71% of parents have access to rental schemes in primary schools and 37% of those in secondary school according to a survey by Barnardos last year. The average cost of school books for a primary school student is €85 per year.

TIP: Shop around online or try to buy children’s school books second hand.

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Birthday Parties

tween party games hidden school costs

Each new school year see’s children bring home invitation after invitation. This year my own daughter has already attended eight birthday parties (and it’s only April), that’s €10 a card each party she attends.

TIP: I have heard of some schools where parents have gotten together to set a €5 limit on presents, usually €5 in a card so the child can buy a present they truly want.

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Packed Lunches

lunch box recipes hidden school costs

While some schools across Ireland offer free lunches, even menus to choose from online, packed lunches can cost a fortune for parents whilst they do their weekly shop.

All schools have healthy eating policies but most don’t offer fridges to keep those foods fresh. I for one struggle with my daughter’s packed lunch for school. At home, I can just whizz up something and serve but for school, we need to think about keeping their foods fresh, smush free and most of all nutritious.

Healthier food options can be more expensive at times so it’s up there on the top of the list for hidden school costs.

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Voluntary Contribution

hidden school costs voluntary school contributions

Each school has its own voluntary contribution system. Some schools ask for this hidden school cost all at once at the beginning of the year others send home envelopes each month asking for donations of a set amount. While this is ‘not compulsory’ some schools do chase parents for it!

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School of choice hidden school costs

While plain uniforms are becoming more common school uniforms can be one of the biggest expenses for parents these days with crested jumpers, crested all-weather coats and now, school tracksuits.

Gone are the days where we would take off our school tie for PE. Now children have crested tracksuits costing anything up to €60+. Then there are those children who are hard wearing on their uniforms so jumpers, tracksuits and even school ties are replaced constantly throughout the year.

Parents need a full tracksuit, runners, a full school uniform with shoes, a coat and not forgetting a school bag which possibly is replaced throughout the year.

TIP: Buy a school bag with a warranty. TOTTO offer 5 years’ warranty on their school bags. Also, check with your school shop, they may sell your child’s school crest. If you are handy with a needle you might be able to buy a school jumper from Dunnes, Tesco or even Aldi and apply it yourself or even get a family member to do it.

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Extra Curricular Activities

summer camps for kids hidden school costs extra curricular activities

There is a wide choice of after school & extra curricular activities on offer to kids these days. Most children will do a range of these and it can cost parents hundreds just to keep up with all they want to do. And, if it their chosen activity needs specialised equipment, or has exams that require fees, it can be even more expensive. I know they are voluntary but try explaining to your child why they can’t at least do one extra thing with their friends!

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Trips to the Doctors

doctors visits hidden school costs

You can call me crazy but as soon as my kids go back to school in September no matter how well they wash their hands or whatever amount of vitamins they take you can be guaranteed of a doctor’s trip setting you back €50+ a pop. With so many kids circulating in a school classroom or yard, it is inevitable that children can pick up germs and bugs that require a visit to the GP.

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School Fundraisers

fundraising ideas for school and clubs hidden school costs

Bake sales. Sponsored walks. Raffles. Non-uniform days. The list is endless. With parents across Ireland feeling pressured to buy into the hidden school costs just so their child doesn’t feel left out.

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help improve your child'w writing skills hidden school costs

Ah, my kids favourite shopping trip of the year. New pencils, funky rubbers and fluffy pencil cases. We could just pop into Dealz and grab a pack of pencils but really our kids need quality pencils that are going to last and they don’t come cheap.

Some schools request branded crayons and folders while throughout the year children are given creative tasks to complete art projects at home. Those tasks need glue, card and most of the time paint. All those hidden school costs, again.

For new parents reading this, I hope I haven’t petrified you! My best advice is to try to get an idea on total costs for the year and budget. Save as much ahead as you can and shop around. My experience is that other parents are always happy to share where they found deals and bargains too so don’t be shy to ask people where they got things.

Over to you. Have we missed any hidden school costs? Let us know in the comments box below. 

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Published On: May 9th, 2018 / Categories: School / Last Updated: March 30th, 2021 / Tags: , , /

About the Author: Kellie Kearney

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Award-winning blogger Kellie Kearney is a mammy of six. Kellie spends her days bribing her kids, counting to three and making memories, whatever the weather, finding free or cheapish family-friendly days out just so they will sleep through the night! (She also hosts a series ‘Adventures of Eire’ over on her award-winning parenting blog www.mylittlebabog.com)

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