Pupils told to bring own toilet paper to school

Pupils in a Irish school are being asked to bring their own toilet paper to school to help offset funding cutbacks.

The principal of St John's Girls National School in Carrigaline, County Cork, confirmed she had sent out a memo to parents last week requesting that their daughters occasionally bring a roll of toilet paper to give to the class teacher, who would dispense the rolls to students when needed.

The bizarre request is part of the school's cost-containment programme so that dwindling state funding can be better spent on education, says principal Catherine O'Neill.

She refused to divulge the school's annual budget but said that the Government's abolition of various grants was behind the request.

The letter, dated 1 October, reads: "Dear parent. From time to time we will request your daughter to bring in a toilet roll to her class teacher. These rolls will be specifically for your daughter's class and will be dispensed by the class teacher. We would also request that your daughter has tissues in her sack at all times. This is due to cutbacks. we are endeavouring to trim down expenses and ensure we use our grants towards the educational needs of your child."

She stressed that the request was just that, and pupils were not obliged to comply.

"We thought with this request that it wouldn't be a burden on families. We're just hoping to spend money on education," she said.

"We're all aware of cutbacks. We didn't mean to insult anyone. It's kind of humorous," she said, adding she didn't believe her school was the first to make such a request.

But a parent of one pupil said he was astonished when he got the letter last week.

"Are things really this bad? This is like something Frank McCourt might have written about growing up in the 1930s," he said. "I was flabbergasted."

Irish National Teachers' Organisation spokesman Peter Mullan said many schools were reeling under funding cutbacks and parents were being asked to shoulder an even greater burden of their child's educational costs.

Despite the Government increasing the capitation grant to cover basic operating costs in the last budget, other grants have been removed. They include the free-book scheme for low-income students, the school library grant and a special grant for Traveller children, he says.

"Two years ago, the Government promised to spend €252m to upgrade computers but not a cent has been spent on them," he said.

Consequently, parents are being asked to hold fundraising drives in order to pay for basic upgrades of their school's computer system, he says.

Students are also being asked to bring items like egg cartons and yoghurt containers to use for art class, he says.

"Parents were being asked to fund superficial things but now they're being asked to pay the core things," he said.

"It's no longer a few books or computer equipment. It's now for basic running costs," he said.

The Department of Education, however, said that schools were now getting more funding for basic operating costs after the capitation grant was increased last year to €200 per student.

He added that St John's Girls school had received close to €379,000 in state funding for its 540 pupils since January 2008.

"The school has not come to the department about any financial difficulty," he said.

Source Irish Independent