National Lottery backs £2 million project to ‘cut cost of school day’ | CPAG

National Lottery backs £2 million project to ‘cut cost of school day’

Published on: 
28 January 2020
  • Child Poverty Action Group awarded funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to remove barriers to learning for children from low-income backgrounds
  • Children in hard-up families are facing barriers to learning opportunities
  • Parents are increasingly asked to contribute to the costs of a school day

A £2 million National Lottery-backed project to support children’s learning and ease financial pressure on low-income parents starts today (Tuesday 28th January) with 128 schools across the UK set to take action over the next three years.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), working with project partners Children North East, will use the National Lottery funding to help schools remove the financial barriers to learning and participation that hold low-income children back, alongside easing the pressure that school-related costs place on struggling families.

The project will draw on previous work by both organisations that has helped schools to explore and address the impact of poverty on education. Now, thanks to the National Lottery funding, UK Cost of the School Day will roll out to schools in Coventry, Neath Port Talbot, the London boroughs of Greenwich, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, as well as expanding to Moray in Scotland.

Through a structured, pupil-led approach, UK Cost of the School Day project staff will work with children and young people, families, teachers, school staff and local authorities to identify ‘cost barriers’ in each school – and to co-design ‘action plans’ to remove them.

Inclusion levels and changes in pupils’ experiences of school will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention throughout the first two years of the project, with the final year focussing on spreading changes that have a positive impact for pupils, beyond the initial 128 schools.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “School days are supposed to be the best days of a child’s life, but instead for some children and their families, they can be a source of anxiety if there are extra and unexpected costs for parents.

“Nine children in every class of 30 are growing up in poverty and although school is free, increasing costs are putting a great strain on families, causing some children to miss out on aspects of school life.

“This is why we’re delighted with the funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. This project will help schools work out what they can do differently to help to bridge these gaps – by making small changes to school life, they can make a huge difference to a child.”

Pupils and staff in schools which have been involved in the earlier Children North East and CPAG in Scotland projects reported a range of cost-barriers to learning, including:

  • Subject costs (e.g. materials for Art, Home Economics, IT, and the cost of theatre trips for Drama)
  • Not having IT at home for homework
  • Lack of money for school trips
  • Lack of money for travel-to-school fares (or travel home from after school activities which end after the free bus has left)
  • Cost of buying past exam papers and other revision materials
  • Cost of hiring and maintaining a musical instrument

A range of bespoke changes were recommended by these projects, to stop financial exclusion at school, including:

  • Choosing more affordable school trips, subsidising trips and/ or allowing parents to pay for trips in instalments
  • Providing sibling discounts for fun events and trips
  • Removing curriculum costs for subjects like home economics and technology
  • Providing a starter pack for entry level pupils of bag, pencil case and stationery and setting up homework clubs with resources such as IT
  • Reviewing school uniform policies, recycling school uniform items, buying plain blazers and ironing on badges
  • Improved promotion of school clothing grants and free school meals
  • Sharing bus hire with nearby schools
  • Setting up breakfast clubs and breakfast boxes for pupils
  • Reducing or removing costs for after school clubs and activities

John Knights, Senior Head of the UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund, said:

“Thanks to National Lottery players this project will support school children to be able to fully and equally take part in all aspects of school life. Importantly the project is putting young people in the lead to create solutions that reduce the stigma that they can feel and enable them to thrive.”

Michele Deans, Operations Director at Children North East said:

“Children North East is enormously proud of our Poverty Proofing the School Day initiative and we're delighted to be partnering with Child Poverty Action Group on this important work. We’re looking forward to using our combined expertise to support more schools across the UK and ensure that every pupil can fully participate in school, regardless of family income.”

Notes to Editors:

Children and school staff in Glasgow and Dundee who were interviewed between and August 2014 and June 2018 as part of the CPAG in Scotland’s Cost of the School Day project said:

Subject costs:

“ I didnae want to pay 50 pence on Home Eccies [Economics]. I didn't want to pay that… because then that takes money off my lunch money, and I was like, nah.” (Pupil)

“Children have the embarrassment of us saying 'do you have your money? You can't cook today.'” (HE teacher)

“I was going to do violin but nu-huh, not if it costs £100 a year.” (Pupil)

“They might get instrument hire for free [if eligible for free school meals] but it’s the upkeep of instruments – oil for a trumpet, that’s a fiver or tenner that isn’t at home,… the cost of music books, one book is £20 and you need another in three months… it’s twenty to thirty pounds for a box of clarinet reeds.” (Music teacher)

School uniform:

“Talk of trying to make blazers mandatory - if you use the clothing grant that’s like all the money gone.” (Parent)

“Ties should be free or less money…we didn't choose to have a senior tie - so why do we have to pay for it - you should get given it.” (Pupil)

Travel costs:

“I’m doing sound production so you’ve got to stay back after school and you’ve got to work on your project and all that. So it means I can’t get the school bus home. I’ve got to pay for public transport afterwards.” (Pupil).

Free school meals:

“If your pals are going out at lunch you'll be a loner. It puts you out the group because they're going out and then you're sitting there on your own with a free meal.” (Pupil)

School lunch (paid for)

“I’m only allowed school dinners twice a week. My mum thinks they’re too expensive, she can make me packed lunches for cheaper, like you can buy multipacks.” (Pupil)

“Sometimes kids are too embarrassed to say they've no money for dinners." (Staff)

Uniform and equipment:

“We used to get told we had to bring… old trainers to wear on the pitch. But everyone didn't have trainers.” (Pupil)

“You see from day one the ones that it will get worse for , you see it as the term goes on – they all start smart and clean but then some families can replace [clothing] and some can’t.” (Teaching staff)

“Some people won’t trial [for the football team] ‘cause they don’t have the equipment so don’t want to make a fool of themselves.” (Pupil)

School trips and events:

“Last day it was just me in my class, that was rubbish, majority of people were away on the trip.” (Pupil)

“If you can’t afford it you’re just sat there in your class on your own and do work while they go – Mr P says if you don’t go you do need to work.” (Pupil)

“I dread it [end of term trip], it might just be £5 but you've still got to find the money from somewhere.” (Parent)

“There’s nothing to do at the Summer fair if you don’t have money… even throwing a sponge at the teacher costs about £1 – I would just go home.” (Pupil)

“Halloween disco is free…but you have to pay for a costume.” (Pupil)

[Book Fair]”…puts pressure on parents…teacher told the children to write down three books…he then expected three books to be bought for him.” (Parent)


“School photos are so expensive, would prefer more time and to be able to spread costs.” (Parent)

Learning at home:

“The teacher wouldn’t accept my homework ‘cause it was handwritten but I don’t have a computer.” (Pupil).


More information on CNE’s and CPAG’s previous work with schools to remove financial barriers to learning here and here.

London boroughs Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster have combined specific areas of service delivery and share an Education Service. UK Cost of the School Day will work in schools in both boroughs and the learning will be shared between the two.

CPAG media contact: Jane Ahrends on 0207 812 5216 or 07816 909302

About The National Lottery Community Fund

We are the largest funder of community activity in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.