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
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
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.