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Parents still pay more than €500 a year for school supplies
Schools are continuing to ask parents for a long list of supplies – even though this practice is illegal – at a time, due to Covid-19, when even more families are struggling to make ends meet.
The back-to-school list, including anything from textbooks to toilet paper and normally stipulating ‘branded’ products like Pritt glue or Tippex, costs between €52 and €520 depending on the level (pre-school, primary or secondary) and the school, according to the organisation campaigning for parental rights, la Ligue des Familles.
However, la Ligue’s head of research Maxime Michiels said: “Parents should only need to supply a school bag, empty pencil case and the child’s clothes.” Rules from September 2019 that school equipment should be free for the first two years of nursery school are hardly respected at all.
And for parents whose children attend technical or professional schools at secondary level, the situation is even worse. Here material costs around €750 a year. This is a paradoxical situation in terms of social justice, said the Ligue des Familles, given that these families are more likely to come from poorer backgrounds.
Schools should be receiving government subsidies to cover the cost of school supplies, Michiels said, regretting “these are undoubtedly too low” to do so. The association not only urges a review of school financing, it also wants an inspector to be appointed to check that the principle of free supplies is being applied.
Meanwhile, some communes are breaking the mold. On 30 June, Romain de Reusme, responsible for education at Ixelles, announced that a budget of €50 for every child attending pre- and primary schools would be allocated to cover school activities and supplies, with every primary pupil receiving their own personal kit.