2023 ILCU Back to School Survey Findings

The Credit Union Back to School Tracker 2023 shows significant increase in parents feeling financial burden of children going back to school.

The Irish League of Credit Unions has published the results of its annual School Costs survey, tracking the costs and impacts of children returning to school. 723 parents (out of a sample size of 2,510) from across Ireland responded to the survey, which was conducted by i-Reach Insights during June.

ILCU Back to School Tracker – Results 2023

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis is very evident this year with a significant increase in the number of parents saying they are under financial pressure with the costs of children returning to school. 72% of parents say that covering the costs of back to school is a financial burden compared to 66% in 2022. Despite this, the amount being spent per child on back-to-school costs has fallen compared to last year and the average debt burden has also fallen.

  • 72% of parents say the cost of Back to School is a financial burden
  • Parents are spending €1,152 per primary school child (2022: €1,195)
  • Parents are spending €1,288 per secondary school child (2022: €1518)
  • Extra-curricular activities is the top expense for primary schools (€191)
  • School Books (€187) is the top expense for secondary schools
  • More than 1 in 4 (29%) say they get into debt covering back to school costs.
  • The average debt amount is €306 (down €33 vs 2022) with 17% having debts over €500
  • 70% of parents believe that schools don’t do enough to keep the costs of going back to school down
  • 75% of schools ask for a ‘voluntary’ contribution

Free Primary School Book Scheme

Despite schools being responsible for informing parents of the Free Primary School Books Scheme nearly half of parents surveyed did not know about it. Introduced by Government earlier this year, the scheme removes the costs of schoolbooks, including workbooks and copybooks for children attending recognized primary schools and special schools.

  • 49% of parents have not been informed of the Free Primary School Books Scheme
  • Of those parents who do not know about the scheme, 39% say they will buy their children’s primary school books outright
  • 92% of parents think the new Free Primary Books Scheme will reduce their back to school costs, with 2 in 5 (40%) saying costs will reduce a lot
  • More than 9 in 10 (92%) want the free books scheme extended to secondary schools

Cost of Living Impacts

A majority of households (88%) are experiencing cost of living increases. Of parents with school going children, 88% also said they have been affected by general cost of living increases. Many parents are using savings to cover these extra costs, while 13% are seeking loans. Slightly more parents (40% compared to 38% of general respondents) are cutting back on activities to save money.

  • 88% of respondents have been affected by rising costs of living since the start of 2023, including 88% of parents with children in school.
  • A third of parents (33%) with school children are dipping into their savings to cover cost of living increases
  • Almost 1 in 5 (18%) of parents of school children are trying to earn additional income.
  • 13% of respondents, including 13% of parents with school children, are taking out loans to cover rising costs, with 2% using Payday / moneylender services
  • 2 in 5 (40%) of parents of school children have cancelled or reduced non-essential activities to save money
  • Increasing costs of food for school lunches (57%) is the biggest effect of the rising cost of living followed by increasing costs for school trips / activities (47%) and uniform costs (43%)
  • 63% of parents shop online for school books. Saving money is the reason given by 61% of these parents.

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