Barnardos, the children's charity has been surveying for a decade the additional costs of free Irish education for parents besides the State's provision of teachers and facilities. It says that one of "the greatest myths perpetuated by the Government is that education is free for all children." Zurich Life has summarised the costs here and has added other data.


Barnardos says that the School Costs Survey demonstrates that education is not free. "Each year parents must fill the gap in funding to ensure their child can fully participate in school. Education is a crucial factor in a child’s development and children spend a sizeable proportion of their life in school.

Parents want the best for their children and appreciate the importance of a good education, so if they must make sacrifices elsewhere in the household budget or take out a loan or end up in debt to send their child to school, they do. Asking parents to make these kinds of difficult choices to give their child an equal chance at a bright future is unacceptable and incompatible with our notion of a fair and just modern Ireland."

The average cost of sending a child to primary school each year is €490, with uniforms and books the most substantial expenses. Capitation grants paid to primary and post primary schools have been reduced in recent years and parents have seen this reflected in the increased voluntary contributions they are asked to pay, now €90 on average in primary schools. The total cost of 8 years' primary school education comes in at an estimated €4,000.

The cost of education gets even higher as your child moves into secondary school. The average annual cost of education for a child entering first year is €1,135. School books and transport are among the most sizeable expenses. The total cost of 6 years' secondary school education, extra expenses excluded is estimated to be €5,500.

All "free-fees" third level institutions charge a mandatory student contribution of €3,000 per year for 2015/16 with no sign of easing in the medium-term. "We estimate the minimum cost of education for children in Ireland from primary school to college graduation is €34,000*."

*Source Zurich Life based on data published in 2014/15

Barnardos School Costs Survey 2015