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Children's Society: parents struggle to pay for extra school costs

31 October 2014

by a staff reporter

children's society

Knows his oranges: the gardener-broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh is supporting the Children's Society's 2014 Christingle campaign: Christingle was a way in which everyone from young children to grandparents could get involved in improving the lives of children in poverty, he said

Knows his oranges: the gardener-broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh is supporting the Children's Society's 2014 Christingle campaign: Christingle was a way ...

A NEW report on the cost of state schooling suggests that two-thirds of parents have struggled to pay for school extras, including meals, school uniforms, and school trips. In families that are classed as "not well off at all", that figure rises to 95 per cent.

More than half of families, it suggests, have had to cut back on food or heating to pay for school, and some have had to borrow money to pay for essential items.

The report At What Cost? has been produced by the Children's Commission on Poverty, which is supported by the Children's Society. Its investigation suggests that parents spend an average of £800 on school-related items, and there are huge variations between schools on items such as school uniform. One school uniform could be bought from a supermarket at a cost of £34; another state-secondary-school uniform cost £500.

The report, published on Wednesday, exposed the impact of poverty on school life. It contains a list of recommendations for the Government, including guidance for schools on uniform choices.

Children who were questioned admitted to being bullied or embarrassed by not being able to take part in things such as school trips. Not being able to go on trips also affected grades; and one third of children living in the poorest families said that they had fallen behind at school because they could not afford a computer or internet facilities at home.

Fifteen young people, ranging in age from 12 to 19, are on the Commission panel. One of them, Cyrus, aged 14, said: "As a young commissioner, the thing that has stood out is how poverty isn't just a physical problem, but has a mental effect on children. Children are being treated differently if they are living in poverty. They are made

to stand out. They don't have computers good enough to download the software they need to do homework."

The chief executive of the Children's Society, Matthew Reed, said: "Children are supposed to be benefiting equally from a free education. Yet the reality is that UK families are paying billions of pounds each year towards the cost of school. Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics."

The Commission is leading an 18-month investigation into child poverty in the UK.

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