Minister for Education and Skills seeks measures to reduce school book costs

As hundreds of thousands of students prepare to go back to school, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, T.D., today announced a range of measures he is seeking from education book publishers to reduce the costs of school books for parents.

This is a significant departure from previous policy positions adopted by former Ministers for Education on this issue. Minister Quinn said that he was eager to implement his proposals, “Being a parent myself, I am very aware of the cost of school books and I have addressed this issue as a priority since taking office. In the current economic climate, it is important that we do everything that we can to assist parents with back to school costs. I expect that these proposals will ease these costs in the next school year.”

Some 514,600 primary school pupils and a further 322,500 secondary school students are heading back to the classroom this week after the summer break.

The new measures are being sought after the Minister recently held meetings with educational book publishers and representatives of parents’ organisations (the National Parents’ Council Primary and the National Parents’ Council Post- primary) and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Following these meetings, the publishers devised a voluntary Code of Practice.

Minister Quinn welcomed this Code of Practice as a significant step in the right direction for parents. But he believes that more can and should be done to reduce the price of textbooks. A recent Barnardos study found that back to school costs range from €350 for junior infants to €805 for second level students.

The Minister said, “My main objective in proposing these measures is to ensure that costs to students and their families are kept to a minimum and I believe that a number of steps can contribute substantially to achieving this objective.”

Minister Quinn is specifically proposing:

reducing the cover price of the most popular textbooks, those used to support the teaching of English, Irish, mathematics and other popular subjects

schools which purchase textbooks in bulk should be given a significant discount, in line with the discounts given to retailers of textbooks

combined conventional textbooks and workbooks are no longer published in a single volume, to allow students to re-use a textbook, which could also be supplied through a rental scheme

support materials are provided to teachers online, to minimise ancillary printing costs

The Minister said, “I am planning further meetings with education book publishers to progress this issue in the autumn. I hope that my proposals and these meetings will be of significant assistance to parents with back to school costs for the next school year”.

The Minister has also asked Department officials to contact all primary and second level schools to determine which schools operate book rental schemes.  He has requested the National Parents Councils to provide him with examples of best practice of book rental schemes in operation in order to encourage more schools to operate such schemes.

“I want to examine if there are ways to incentivise schools, via the current book grant scheme which this year stands at €15 million, to establish or maintain book rental schemes as one of the most effective ways of lowering the burden of the cost of school books on already cash strapped parents,” Minister Quinn concluded.