Opinion,  Parenting

School Expenses

I thought it might be a good idea to talk about some of the 4 year old’s starting school expenses, how I think they compare to other schools and also go into some of the hidden costs that you may not have considered.  As I chatted about this with my fellow Irish Parenting Bloggers, we realised that this was an issue that many of us would like to discuss and share our opinions and feelings so you will see more links appearing below as we blog about it.

Where has the time gone? This time 5 years ago I was awaiting the arrival of my first child with more than a little anxiety. Now I’m sticking and ironing labels but thankfully with far less worry than I thought I would have.  Perhaps the fact that I buried my head in the sand this summer and focussed on some food projects helped but it’s time for me to face up to the fact that it’s time for him to enter into formal education.

I’ve written, and spoken, of our school choice before. We have decided to educate our children through the Irish Language (Gaeilge) in a Gaelscoil (literally translated it means Irish school). The choice was the easy part, there are many positive and some negative consequences to this choice and you’ll see what I mean below.

The school is very young, it has yet to reach full capacity but that will happen in the next few years as the children move through the primary cycle. Being a young school means that the board of management and teachers are progressive and sensitive in their curriculum and uniform decisions which helps keep costs down.

Many schools charge a stationary/photocopying fee, many also request voluntary contribution at the start of the year. Our school does not request a voluntary contribution, however the entire fee and book rental charge for the year comes in at just under €70. I did have to buy 1 workbook, some folders and glue, a new lunchbox, drinks bottle and labels for his uniform and school items brought that cost to €100.  A family member bought him a new schoolbag which is very much appreciated.

When it comes to uniforms, many schools require a crested uniform – this is a jumper, t-shirt or shirt and possibly also a jacket which has an embroidered school crest. In our school we can buy any generic uniform clothes, then a crest separately and I then sew the crest on myself. A specific embroidered jumper could cost as much as €45. I can pick up a discount jumper and a crest for under €10. There is a school tracksuit but I was lucky enough to pick up two tracksuits for the price of one in May of this year when there was a sale in the draper’s down the town. Overall, his uniform for the year, including a couple of thermal vests for the winter cost us €100, and that includes two tracksuits.

When I bought his winter coat last year I allowed for plenty of room and it will certainly fit him again this year, his light summer raincoat will do for Autumn showers. The last big expense was his footwear. I was able to get quality shoes and runners in discount shops and they cost under €50 for both. We cannot compromise on shoe quality as we walk a long distance each day (7km round trip, 5 days a week). Last year I did buy some cheaper runners for the walk to/from the Montessori (located in the same building) and they barely lasted 3 weeks. Investing in good shoe leather now will save us money in the long run.

These are the obvious school expenses for heading back to primary school. Don’t forget that if you drive you need to allow for maintenance/wear and tear on your vehicle, if the kids take a bus there is a cost for that, and of course if you walk you need to provide for your own shoe leather, wear and tear on your clothes and possibly a buggy too!

If you have a child in secondary school, you can multiply our cost of €250 by at least 4 for most first year students.  I know that our costs are significantly cheaper than most other primary schools in Ireland and for that I’m grateful.

Each family is different, each child differs from year to year, the school and location your child goes to makes the experience unique to every family. One thing that unites us all however is that providing for your child’s education is not free but there are ways that schools can assist you in keeping the costs down. Some are more progressive than others.

How does your school fit into the school expenses? Are they in the high, middle or low range?

If you’re interested in how much it costs to go back to school in Ireland you can read this excellent infographic from Barnardos which is based on a survey they carried out earlier this Summer. You can also read from the selection of Irish Parenting Bloggers over the next couple of days:

Sunday, 25th August: The Clothesline – It All Adds Up

Monday, 26th August: The Mama’s Hip – Homeschooling haul and chatter

Monday, 26th August: Awfully Chipper – Back to school in America

Tuesday, 27th August: Learner Mama – Back to school – A costly business

Tuesday, 27th August: Office Mum – School Costs & The Double Income Contradicton

Tuesday, 27th August: Musings And Chatterings – Crests and costs – starting big school part 1

Wednesday, 28th August: Serious Wagon – Back to School Costs

Wednesday, 28th August: Dreaming Aloud – Changing Gear

Thursday, 29th August: My Country Girl Ramblings – Back to School The Hidden Costs

Friday, 30th August: Jazzygal – Back to School Costs (a lot)

I'm an Irish mother to 2 boys, born & bred in Dublin, Ireland. I like to cook simple & fresh food for the family, with the family on a budget.


  • Nono

    My little one goes to second class this year and the cost so far is:
    90 euros for school material
    75 euros for books
    81 euros for shoes and runners (we usually buy them in Clarks as I don’t know discount shops where I can get quality shoes)
    140 euros for schoolbag (Ok, I went overboard here but it’s an ergonomic schoolbag coming from Germany because I couldn’t find any good ergonomic schoolbag here). Hopefully it should last her a few years.

    20 euros for a thermos lunch cup so she can have warm food. Again, I went for quality here because the cheap versions just don’t cut it.
    Last year’s uniforms and winter coat should still fit her.
    Another 100 euros for school contribution will be needed, so the grand total so far is 506 euros. Pricey but hopefully worth it…

    • Wholesome Ireland

      Yikes, of course it’s worth it. By the way, we had to go to Portlaoise during the week which takes us past the Kildare Village outlet for Clarke’s Shoes – hence the nearly half price. 😉

  • Ciara

    Two kids here.

    Daughter going into second
    €35 for books, €81 for rental of readers, insurance, diary, photocopying, arts and crafts materials etc. Also needed specified stationery – HB pencils, faber castell colouring pencils, 40g Pritt sticks as well as generic items like ruler, red pens etc.
    Thankfully her jumper and skirt still fit, so “just” needed trousers, blouses, polo shirts and a new (crested) tracksuit – €64.50. Runners still fit, but bought shoes – €55. Coat still fits and next size one bought in sale last January – I do spend money on coat and shoes as again we walk to school, so watch for sales when I can. Schoolbag, lunchbox and beaker still o.k.

    Son starting Junior Infants
    The €100 deposit last December to secure his school place pays for his books, stationery, photocopying, insurance and other costs. He just wears the crested tracksuit for Junior Infants so needed polo shirts €4 and a crested tracksuit, €40, luckily have a pre-loved one as a spare. I got him Pablosky shoe/runners crossovers €50. His school bag was €19, but the same as his sister’s which has lasted over a year, so an investment. Luckily his beaker and lunchbox from Naíonra do him as does last year’s coat and I got him the next size coat in sale last January.

    I needed to buy labels and book covers for both and I haven’t included vests, socks, (and tights for dd).

    The voluntary contribution costs will be asked for in Oct/Nov, €125 a year per family. My daughter will be doing swimming in school hours as part of P.E., another €70 or so. And there will be assorted fundraisers both for the school and charity coming towards Christmas.

    Again ours is quite a new school, it’ll take till next year to see it reach full capacity, so I think they are ok for minding costs (my only real objection is the crested tracksuit), but again they are also trying to build up basics.

  • Dee O'Toole

    I’ve been a teacher for 8 years but it’s only this year as my own son starts school that I am realizing how much it all adds up to. I think spending extra on good quality shoes, schoolbag and lunchbox will save money in the long run.
    Crested jumpers and unusually-coloured uniforms should be done away with. We should be able to choose where to buy the uniforms rather than bring restricted to one shop. Sewing on your own crest is a great idea.

      • Dee O'Toole

        Well I was always conscious of how many books I put on the book list; but I never realised how much all the extra expenses add up to.
        Teachers don’t usually have any input into uniform, but as a parent I will approach the Parents Association
        about it. They don’t make the decisions either, but they can put pressure on the principal to change it. They can also organize second-hand uniform sales and book rental schemes.

  • Marie Walsh

    My little fella starting junior infants too. €65 for arts and crafts and copies etc paid to secure his place. €57 for books, €10 for a school reading programme, €105 for 2 tracksuits, 2 polo t-shirts and the jumper all crested, about €20 for the trousers and shirts in Dunnes. My mam bought him his shoes and his bag which like yourself I was extremely grateful for and he has a lunchbag and bottle he got towards the end of last term in montessori (again from his nanny) which is still good. And about €10 for a new lunch box and pencil case. My only real annoyance was the school t-shirt, at €10 each a total rip off, could have bought 4 for that in Dunnes. A plain blue polo shirt with the name of the school embroidered into it, not even the actual crest!

    • Wholesome Ireland

      That is very annoying. I’d be fuming about that too to be honest. I wonder what the sanctions are if you don’t buy the crested uniform? They can’t exactly refuse to educate your child can they?

  • Dee O'Toole

    There’s no doubt that it’s expensive, but a lot of people leave the school shopping til last minute, which means forking out a large amount of money in one or two shopping trips. I was in the shops today and saw a lot of frantic parents hurrying around the shops, clutching crumpled book lists.
    Spread the cost over June, July and August, and it might not feel so bad on the purse.

  • Lisa

    Gosh I’ve a year to go before my eldest starts – think ill start saving now! Not to mention the following year when I’ll have twins starting – double the expenses. Going to be a nightmare.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      It is a nightmare. Definitely best to start saving a little bit each week rather than getting a big bill over the summer. It’s far easier. Also don’t forget that often uniforms can be on sale in the early New Year so keep an eye out then.

  • ioanas

    I always like to read your blog when have a bit of time on my hands and love it. This article is very wise and I hope you don’t mind if I congratulate your family for the decision of putting the kids in and Irish School. We need more people to learn the language and not allow it to die. Love the fact that your articles are so down to earth and show exactly the costs that can occur in life.

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