With schools going back over the next week families across Scotland are having to buy new school uniforms, replace old shoes and battered school bags. These additional costs at the start of term can put pressure on families already struggling with low-incomes and risk children starting the school term without the correct school uniform and the stigma that can surround being visibly different.
Well if you don't have a blazer, it's like £50 for a blazer so most people who don't have one cannae afford one and if you don't have it on then the teachers do give you into trouble for that. (Boy, Cost of the school day report)
As well as the pressures that school costs can place on low income families, the Cost of the School Day report also found that the costs involved in school can have a big impact on how children experience school. Not being able to take part in activities like school clubs or fun activities can make children feel left out and in some cases may choose not to take part in activities or miss school.
We get kids that don’t come in on non-dress code days. Why? Because they don’t have anything new. The kids would never admit that. They don’t say “it’s because I’ve nothing new” it’s just “oh, I wasn’t well that day, Miss” (Teacher, Cost of the school day report)
It’s vital that schools work to reduce costs and ensure that there is equal access to all the opportunities that school provides, regardless of a family’s income. That’s why Child Poverty Action Group are delighted that Glasgow City Council Education Service has developed guidance for all schools around the cost of the school day.
The guidance provide practical ideas to help schools ensure that they are not placing undue pressure on already stretched family budgets. For example:
"School uniforms should be affordable for families on low incomes. Schools should design their uniform policies with very minimum costs at the forefront of their minds.
Schools should take account of the need for replacement items throughout the year and weather appropriate clothing. Families should be given an appropriate amount of time to purchase replacement items."
The guidance is going out to every school in Glasgow and will be shared with every teacher during in-service at the start of term. This gives a really strong message to all schools that they need to be constantly mindful of cost barriers and take action to reduce them wherever possible.
We hope that it will help schools think about the cost of the school day in relation to all their decisions from the homework they set to uniform policy and we will be gathering stories from schools that are working to reduce the impact of costs.