Barnardos asks for free books to help back-to-school costs
FREE school books should be introduced for all primary school children, a charity has urged.
A survey by Barnardos found parents were continuing to pay substantial costs in getting children ready to return to school each September.
It revealed that many were forgoing paying bills and cutting back on other expenses.
Barnardos surveyed families in the Republic.
The research follows a similar exercise in the north by the Irish League of Credit Unions, which found preparing children for their return to class was a "burden". In-debt parents claimed they could not afford new school shoes for their children while gym gear was also being cut by many.
In the Republic, about half of parents of both primary and secondary pupils reported an increase in the cost of school books this year.
Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly said offering free books would help.
"Every year for more than a decade parents have been telling Barnardos that their children's back to school costs place a significant financial burden upon them," she said.
"Parents are stressed out, overburdened and fed up of subsidising our so called ‘free education' system. The substantial financial cost of sending a child to school means access to education is not free and anything but equal.
"Developing a free education system will not happen overnight but the government must take the first step in creating a more equitable system. Providing free books for all children would cost a miniscule amount in terms of the Department of Education's overall budget (0.2 per cent) but it would have a transformative impact in terms all children starting off with the same resources."