Cost of the School Day Spotlight 1: North Ayrshire Council | CPAG

Cost of the School Day Spotlight 1: North Ayrshire Council

Published on: 
17 May 2021
Written by: 

Councillor Robert Foster
Lead member for Poverty, North Ayrshire Council

In North Ayrshire we are fully committed to becoming a fairer and more equal society.   Our key focus is to tackle inequalities and create a society where no one lives in poverty, where the economy is inclusive and where everyone has the same life chances to live fulfilling and healthy lives. 

Our 2019/20 Child Poverty Action Plan and Report was published in October 2020. This identified The Cost of the School Day as a key area of focus for 2020/21. The theme of reducing the Cost of the School Day was also identified as a priority by our Fair for All Poverty Truth Commission work and in the Year of Young People legacy action plan recommendations, both of which are our mechanisms for taking account of our residents' lived experience.  

Cost of the School Day working group and policy  

A formal Cost of the School Day (COSD) Working Group was established comprising Elected Members, young people, parents, head teachers and staff of educational establishments, senior officers from the Council and HSCP, CPP partners and officers.  

We have previously participated in work with Public Health and Young Scot to develop local approaches to Cost of the School Day, providing a sound basis for the current work, with excellent practice in schools being contributed to the working group deliberations.  

The aim of the COSD Working Group was to further drive forward a whole systems approach to reducing the cost associated with education. We already have strong approaches to this across our area and we continue to look for new whole-system commitments from the Council and its community planning, wider community, and business partners.  

The objective of the COSD working group was to produce a policy that could be used by all schools, services and partners to embed the agreed principles and to develop a high-level action plan to be taken forward in 2021. The policy and action plan encompasses the work of all educational establishments and of community planning partners, communities and local businesses.  

Key principles and plans  

The COSD Working Group met four times between November 2020 and March 2021. The group identified some key principles that underpin our approach:  

  • Relationships  

  • Good communication  
  • Trust  
  • Respect  
  • Thinking it through – intentions and unintended consequences  
  • Creativity  
  • Partnerships 

The Working Group agreed that a set of North Ayrshire Commitments would be launched with schools and partners to set out the overall objectives. A high level action plan was developed that included a wide variety of suggested actions that can be taken forward by education establishments, council services and partners.  

We have committed to hold a launch event in the form of a COSD Conference. In line with our co-design and co-production approach, key areas of focus for the forthcoming year from the draft action plan will be agreed at a launch conference in June 2021. 

The conference will become an annual event where the action plans can be reviewed, and good practice can be shared. We hope that all education establishments will nominate a COSD Champion who will attend the conference as well as other key staff and partners.  

We also plan to launch a survey that will be carried out annually by young people to gather views of parents, young people, school staff and other partners to inform the conference and improvements to our policy and approaches. 

The COSD Working Group has been a collaborative process. The voices of and the contribution from young people, our school representatives and partners has been extremely valuable in shaping the overall Policy. We have had contributions from national experts and external partners including Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland and their support and guidance has been much appreciated.  

North Ayrshire commitments and actions  

Policy and action plan intentions

Our North Ayrshire Cost of the School Day Commitments

Reduce costs related to going to school.                

We will take a sustainable, whole systems approach to reduce and poverty proof costs relating to the school day 

Increase participation by children, young people and families. 

Children, young people and their families will be at the heart of making decisions and designing policies that affect the cost of the school day. 

Minimise income stigma and increase inclusive approaches. 

Our schools, services and partners will take a reflective, poverty aware and inclusive approach to making decisions that affect the cost of the school day. 

Support families. 

We will support families to maximise their income and participate in the life of their school. 

This will be underpinned by the following: 

  • We will commit to adopting the Cost of the School Day Toolkit in every educational establishment, supported by partners. 
  • We will commit to co-designing actions in relation to the COSD with young people, families and partners.  

Some of the actions that the COSD Working Group have suggested are very ambitious. For example, the group suggested a focus on income maximisation in schools as well specific actions for partners as well as schools. Participation is at the heart of our policy and we want to unsure that the launch COSD Conference ensures that the commitments are co-produced with and visible for families and children.  

Ongoing investment in our commitments  

As part of the policy development and our budget commitments, it was agreed that there will be a recurring annual investment of £500,000 which will focus on: 

  • Food: £150,000 to extend our school and community food network across all schools to support children and families.

  • Clothing and sustainability: £100,000 for a School and Family Participatory Budget Investment Fund for educational establishments to respond to local needs in relation to school uniforms, outdoor clothing, sports kit and recycling and reuse equipment.
  • Digital inclusion: £250,000 in a Digital Families Fund to digitally include 1,000 families each year, providing access to devices and connectivity for online learning and activities, enhancing and guaranteeing sustainability of current investment in devices for home use. 

We now look forward to our first conference, which will be organised and led by our Youth Services team and the young people who have been involved in the development of the CoSD policy and action plan.