Challenge Poverty Week guest blog: Reducing the Cost of the School Day with #YSAttain | CPAG

Challenge Poverty Week guest blog: Reducing the Cost of the School Day with #YSAttain

Published on: 
06 October 2021
Written by: 

Mary Cane, Smart Services Officer at Young Scot

At the Cost of the School Day project in Scotland we are really delighted to work with the Young Scot #YSAttain project.

From our work in schools, we know that costs throughout the school day can pile pressure on families and affect young people’s participation, learning and wellbeing. Just some of the issues raised by young people and their families include being unable to eat breakfast before school, missing the right resources for learning and difficulties affording travel to and from school and extra-curricular activities.

Schools across Scotland are working hard to challenge poverty and find creative solutions to financial barriers - you can see some great examples in these short films and in the Cost of the School Day Toolkit.

#YSAttain is one great way to help young people take part and save their families money. This Challenge Poverty Week, we asked Mary Cane, Smart Services Officer at Young Scot to tell us more about how #YSAttain is helping to reduce the cost of the school day:


In 2018, Young Scot launched the ‘Attainment Challenge: National Strategic Partnership’ (#YSAttain), alongside the Scottish Government, Local Authorities, Transport Scotland, the Improvement Service and the National Entitlement Card Programme Office.

Together, the partners wanted to help close the poverty-related attainment gap and reduce food poverty by using the smart-technology of the Young Scot National Entitlement Card (Young Scot NEC). Since then, young people have received practical local entitlements that are known to improve their health and wellbeing. These have been delivered to them in a ‘stigma free’ way via their Young Scot NEC.

The partnership directly supports the Scottish Attainment Challenge #YSAttain. However, its outcomes also supports other strategic ambitions – including Cost of the School Day – by giving young people entitlements both in and out of school settings.

Free School Breakfasts

The smart-technology in the Young Scot NEC allows for additional meal entitlements to be delivered during school hours beyond young people’s Free School Meal entitlements. Both The Highland and North Ayrshire councils have used their existing cashless catering systems to give young people a free and healthy breakfast to start their day. Two schools in North Ayrshire and four in the Highlands launched a £1.50 breakfast meal deal which was available to all pupils and free for some young pupils.

By using the Young Scot NEC as a cashless catering card, young people who receive free school meals were able to use an extra £1.50 credit to access their breakfast entitlement. They access this in the same way as their peers who paid through cashless catering – helping to remove any stigma. These projects have helped young people to get the best start to their day – with one school reporting that “some pupils are more settled and are concentrating more”.

“The breakfast is great. It is good because instead of my parents having to spend money on breakfast I can get it in school and they can spend money on other things.” (Young Person, North Ayrshire)

Young Scot Rewards

#YSAttain partners have also used Young Scot Rewards to reduce the cost of the school day for young people and their families. In North Ayrshire, they developed a ‘Rewards Pack for Schools’. Local young people were able to earn Young Scot Rewards points for taking part in after school activities. With their Young Scot Rewards points, the young people were able to access a range of school and education related rewards, including tablet computers, stationery packs and study guides.

In North Lanarkshire, Young Scot Rewards were given to targeted groups of young people from two schools in Bellshill. These were designed to support the young people’s health and wellbeing and help to reduce the cost of their school day. Rewards offered included stationery packs, clothing vouchers, supermarket vouchers and period product bundles.

Free Bus Travel

The Young Scot NEC can also be used to access free bus travel. This can dramatically reduce the cost of the school day for a young person and their family. A young person needing to pay for bus travel to and from school can often find themselves with no money for the rest of the day for lunches or activities. By loading free bus travel on to their Young Scot NEC, #YSAttain partners have helped young people and their families keep more money in their pockets.

In Dundee, young people saved nearly £6,000 on over 750 tickets (April 19 – August 20). While in Falkirk young people saved over £3000, making nearly 2700 journeys (September 19-August 20).

“I was able to make my way to and from school easier and was able to make my own way to the shops rather than my mum having to take me. It was also easier to have plans with my friends as I didn’t have to arrange for other transport.” (Young Person)

Young Scot Discounts

Young Scot discounts are a key Young Scot service that can help to young people and their families to maximise their incomes. There are hundreds of discounts available at both in-person and online retailers. These discounts are wide ranging with many directly and indirectly helping young people save on school related costs. There are discounts for saving money on study guides, stationery and art supplies to school uniforms, clothing and sports and outdoor kit. ​

Find out more about the impact of #YSAttain and how you can get involved.