The UK Cost of the School Day project works with schools and local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to ensure that all children, regardless of financial background, can take part and be happy at school.
The Cost of the School Day in England: Pupils' Perspectives is a report focusing on our research so far in England. It highlights some of the positive work being carried out by schools to ensure that opportunities are affordable and inclusive, while also drawing attention to the multitude of ways that pupils from low-income families face exclusion and stigma.
We hope that by listening to the issues identified by children and young people, readers of this report will take action to bring about greater equity of experience and opportunity within our education system.
- Curriculum and learning: Pupils experiencing poverty in England are financially excluded from full participation in a wide range of school subjects and activities, including PE, music, swimming and art and design.
- Stigma: Day-to-day practices in English schools often unintentionally draw attention to family incomes and make children feel embarrassed and different. These include expensive uniform policies, non-uniform days and requirements to bring in material possessions like pencil cases.
School fun: Families are borrowing money to pay for school activities like school trips, not wanting children to lose out on these valuable learning opportunities.
School food: Policies and practices relating to food in school often mean that children experiencing poverty don’t have the same options as their peers at lunchtime.
Key recommendations for Government
Provide adequate funding to schools to ensure all curriculum-related costs are removed for pupils and all children have the resources and tools they need to fully participate in school activities both at home and at school.
Provide local authorities with additional funding and a statutory responsibility to help families with school costs through targeted initiatives such as school clothing grants and subsidies for trips. Initiatives like this already exist in all other UK nations.
- Provide universal free school meals to school-aged children in England so that all pupils have equitable access to food while at school.
- Provide a statutory framework, strategy and additional ring-fenced funding so schools in England can provide programmes, activities and services that go beyond the core function of classroom education, such as breakfast and after-school clubs.
Key recommendations for schools
- Plan all teaching, events and activities with affordability and accessibility in mind. Wherever possible, remove or minimise charging for school-related activities.
- Explore and review current school costs. Take a holistic view of the school year and determine the cost of full participation in school life.
- Ensure that all staff, including non-teaching staff, are aware of the nature, causes, extent and impact of poverty and how to reduce the stigma that children can face in school.
- Provide meaningful opportunities for pupils and families to give feedback on their experience of school with a focus on school costs.