Cost of the School Day | CPAG

Cost of the School Day

breaking down the financial barriers to education

The Cost of Learning in Lockdown: family experiences of school closures

To understand how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted children’s experience of learning, we conducted some research through surveys and interviews with parents, carers, children and young people. We found that the cost burdens of school closures have fallen most heavily on families already living on a low income. For instance, one third of the families who are most worried about money have had to buy a laptop, tablet or other device.

New Cost of the School Day resources for the return to school in Scotland

With many more families facing financial hardship because of the Covid-19 crisis, poverty awareness and action is more important than ever. Cost of the School Day has produced new resources to help school communities understand the issues children and families are facing, and the solutions which can help to bring about change. 

Why address the Cost of the School Day?

“Education is free but a lot of school things are not.”

Member of the Children’s Parliament, age 11, Children’s Parliament The Weight on our Shoulders report

Families living on low incomes often struggle with the cost of the school day. Uniforms, trips, school lunches, gym kits, pencils and pens, and dress down days can be difficult or impossible to afford. When children and young people can’t take part in opportunities because of financial barriers, they not only miss out but feel different as a result, and it is harder for them to learn, achieve and be happy at school.

At the same time, we know that poverty has a ferocious and long lasting effect on children’s health and wellbeing, and affects their ability to learn. Children from low-income households are also more likely to report feeling useless and hopeless about their future. There is currently a significant and persistent gap in attainment between children from lower and higher income families, yet we know that if children can do well at school they can have better employment prospects. Education can represent a route out of poverty, but crucially only if children can fully access that education.

“Well I think if all of your friends or people you know go to the after school clubs, school trips, that kind of isolates you from them. You're singled out, you're not with them, just a spare person.

Boy, age 15

How does the Cost of the School Day project work?


The Cost of the School Day helps school communities identify and overcome cost barriers that shape and limit children’s opportunities at school. This project sees children, parents and school staff identify these cost barriers and take action to remove them. Read about some of the successes so far.

children north east logoThis new work builds on our existing Cost of the School Day project in Scotland with the addition of the ‘poverty proofing’ expertise of our partners Children North East.

If we want to tackle poverty, every child from a low-income household must be able to make the most of the school day.

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New Cost of the School Day Films

We've just launched our new films and information for school communities. Find out how schools around Scotland are making Cost of the School Day changes.

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Working in partnership

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Children North East on the expansion of the Cost of the School Day across the UK.

The difference Cost of the School Day makes

Taking a Cost of the School Day approach helps schools to mitigate the effects of child poverty.

Support, Advice and Training in Scotland

How we can support your Cost of the School Day approach.


Helping your school community to address the Cost of the School Day

What’s already happening

Just some of the great Cost of the School Day initiatives in schools.

New evaluation published

New evaluation commissioned by NHS Health Scotland shows the positive impact that Cost of the School Day is having in schools.

A head teacher’s view

A primary school head teacher writes about the impact of this project in his school.
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Local authorities taking the lead

What local authorities around Scotland are doing to address the Cost of the School Day.
Man and child

Parents, carers and Parent Councils

Working together to make a difference to the school day.
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reports and publications

Further reading about the Cost of the School Day.

Latest news

Wales: Over half of children in poverty missing out on free school meals

16 October 2020
New analysis from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) finds that over half of children in Wales who live below the UK poverty line are not entitled to free school meals. Of the 129,000 school-age children living below the poverty line in Wales, over 70,000 are not eligible, mainly because their parents are in low-paid jobs which take them over the eligibility threshold.

New toolkit to help London schools tackle poverty

15 October 2020
With child poverty likely to rise sharply as the UK enters a coronavirus recession, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Greater London Authority (GLA) have produced a practical toolkit to help London schools tackle poverty in the classroom.

Free school meals briefing

We believe free school meals should be a universal part of the school experience. As well as preventing and reducing child poverty, the provision of school meals to all pupils has a number of other well-document benefits.