David McNulty, Headteacher of Avenue End Primary School, outlines his school’s experiences with the Cost of the School Day project and the lessons learned. (This blog post first appeared on Glasgow Centre for Population Health's website)
The Cost of the School Day is a unique pilot project in Glasgow looking at the impact of poverty on the lives of children and young people and their access to an education. Several schools across Glasgow are involved.
As a school committed to making a difference in the lives of all of our children, we were eager to be actively involved in Cost of the School Day project. We were hopeful too that the findings would ultimately have a positive impact in helping reduce any barriers to learning, ensuring that every child at our school had the same opportunities and that every child felt included, regardless of family background or budget.
A team effort
Our involvement in the Cost of the School Day was a real team effort. Actively seeking the views of our children, parents and staff helped us identify what we could do practically in school. We discussed the significant costs of uniform, especially our sweatshirts with the school logo embroidery. Now we offer our parents a variety of options to purchase uniform with or without embroidery. Although we are unable to eliminate uniform costs completely, by simply placing the focus on the wearing of school colours, our parents now do not feel under the same pressure to spend more than necessary.
With regard to pencils, sharpeners, rulers etc, there can be an expectation that families supply various stationery items for their children to use at school. Certainly, at our school, children are most welcome to bring their own stationery, if they wish to do so. However, children will not be challenged or made to feel uncomfortable if they don’t have, for example, anything to write with. Valuable time for learning will not be interrupted and children will be supplied with items from school stock. Also as a result of being involved in the project, we now supply material needed to complete home learning tasks, as much as possible.
Making events accessible for pupils
Our school’s Parent Council have been and continue to be a tremendous support. Last session, funds were raised which allowed us to be able to take the whole school on a summer day trip without any charge to families. In fact, we did not ask parents to contribute to any of our class learning visits during the course of the year, with the exception of the Primary 7 residential school trip. However, we still worked hard to significantly reduce the cost of this trip too. In addition to this, free discos and film nights were organised for our children and these proved to be very popular indeed. Parents openly voiced their appreciation, especially those with a number of children from the same family at our school.
Of course, our Parent Council has to arrange some events that cost money, in order to raise funds in the first place. However, we are trying to keep costs for these events realistic and not excessive. For our school fair in December we will now plan some free activities/stalls as well as paid, so that no child feels they can’t take part due to not having any money.
Impact of the project
The biggest impact for our school, as a result of being involved in the Cost of the School Day project is that it really has made us all stop and think. I cannot emphasise enough that this project is not just an initiative, it is about changing mindset that will grow and have further impact on the decisions made in our establishment. As we strive to close the attainment gap, these decisions will continue to positively affect the lives of our children. What we have truly realised is that small changes really do make a big difference.
Imagine if every school took a little time and started to think, reflect and make some simple changes… what could we achieve together?
The Cost of the School Day was hosted by Child Poverty Action Group. You can find out more about their work addressing school costs here