The Cost of Secondary School Education

Children in Ireland are entitled to free education, but each year back-to-school costs are rising for families. The Zurich Cost of Education Survey 2017 highlights the increasing cost of secondary school in Ireland. Here's a list of expenses you can expect to pay each year and the lifetime cost of putting just one child through secondary education.

An infographic illustrating the cost of secondary school in Ireland An infographic illustrating the cost of secondary school in Ireland

Source: Zurich Cost of Education Survey 2017

The cost of putting just one child through school can easily run into tens of thousands of euro. If you have two or more children then you're going to have to dig even deeper to sustain the cost of their educational needs over the long-term.

The Zurich Cost of Education Survey 2017 has revealed the cost of educating your children in Ireland, and details what you can expect to spend throughout your child's school and college years. While the expenses add up when sending a child to primary school, 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 €1,629*.

According to our research, school books and transport are among the most sizeable expenses, costing €200 and €115 respectively. However, the move to secondary school also brings a greater number of 'other' expenses such as lunch money (€183), trips (€201), after school activities (€136) and clothing (€125). Perhaps the biggest expense for parents with secondary school children will be grinds, estimated to be around €310.

Our research into the cost of secondary school also reveals that parents underestimate the cost of secondary school believing it to be €1,273 for one child per school year. However, our study uncovers that the cost is much higher at €1,629. If we allow for the fact that the bulk of school books will be bought in first and fifth year in the build-up to junior cert and leaving cert cycles respectively, the total cost of six years' secondary school education, extra expenses excluded, is estimated to be €7,734.

The Cost of Secondary School Education
Item Estimated Cost
Grinds €310
After school activities €136
Voluntary Contribution €131
Books €200
Lunches €183
Clothing €125
Transport €115
Shoes €98
School trips €201
Parents Association €54
School Supplies €76
Annual Cost €1,629
Lifetime Cost €7,734

Adding it all up

For parents with children in secondary school, finding the money each year for school items can put a strain on their finances. To alleviate some of these financial burdens, parents are constantly looking at ways to reduce their children's school costs. However, there are many expenses such as uniforms, books, and voluntary contributions that are unavoidable and out of a parent's control.

An example of this is in relation to school books. For the majority of secondary school children (81%), they are primarily required to have hard copies of books. The Zurich Cost of Education research report found that while 68% of primary schools offer a book rental scheme, in secondary school, only 39% of parents said they have been able to take advantage of this system with more than half of secondary schools not offering a scheme.

Parent's looking at reducing the cost of books during the post primary cycle said that the use of technology could have an impact here. In secondary school, 60% of parents said they would like to see more widespread use of laptops, iPads and eReaders in their children's classroom.

Similarly with regard to uniforms, parents can try to reduce the cost by providing non-branded uniforms for their children but this is dependent on the policy of individual schools. During our research into the cost of education in Ireland, we found that 59% of secondary school children have to wear a full branded uniform and 17% a branded jumper only. Of those parents surveyed for our research it was found that 80% of secondary school parents were not eligible for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance for their children.

There are areas where parents can reduce costs such as lunches and transport. In secondary school most children bring a packed lunch (74%), but for those that buy their lunch or eat in the school canteen the average spend on school lunches in the year is €183. In secondary school, 50% of children travel by car with 35% walking and 21% taking public transport. If children can walk or bike to school then this will eliminate the transport cost.

Early life saving

There are some measures parents can take to reduce the cost of sending their children to secondary school, such as buying non-branded uniforms, providing packed lunches and walking or biking to school. Other solutions to minimising the financial strain is early planning and saving.

Looking specifically at parents' saving behaviour, the Zurich Cost of Education research found that 77% of parents have a savings account and save an average of €5,299 per year. Half of those savers (49%) say their top saving priority is to cover their children's education costs. Furthermore, two thirds (66%) of parents have or plan to set up a savings account for their children. Most parents (42%) agreed that under the age of one is the best time to set up a savings account.

Something to think about...

It's clear to see that the cost of education is high and increases over the years. So, wouldn't it make sense to plan ahead and build up your savings year-on-year?

With a Zurich Easy Access Savings plan you can gradually build up the funds necessary to support your children's education.

The table below illustrates just how much regular savings can grow with a Zurich Easy Access Savings plan. For example, if you saved the Government child benefit of €140 per month for five years (as of January 2017) from when your child was born, by the time they started school you could have built up savings of €8,832 in time to fund this crucial stage in their education.

*Source: Zurich Cost of Education Survey 2017

Savings fund after five years starting primary school Savings fund after 12 years starting primary school
Regular contributions of €140 per month* €8,832 €22,564
Lump sum of €10,000 and regular contributions of €140 per month* €19,700 €34,865
A gross investment return of 4.2% per annum is assumed, partial encashment, assignment, death or on each 8th anniversary of the policy tax is deducted on gains made. The figures shown allow for the deduction of tax (currently 41%). Saving amounts are after the deduction of the Government Insurance Levy (currently 1% as at July 2017 and may change in the future). No surrender penalties apply. An annual management charge of 1.25% and an allocation rate of 101% apply. The information contained herein is based on Zurich Life's understanding of current Revenue practice as of July 2017 and may change in the future.
Warning: The value of your investment may go down as well as up.
Warning: If you invest in this product you may lose some or all of the money you invest.
Warning: These figures are estimates only. They are not a reliable guide to the future performance of your investment.
Warning: This product may be affected by changes in currency exchange rates.

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