For many children, events, celebrations and special activities are some of the things they remember most about their time at school. We know that many pupils look forward to these activities and gain a lot from them, and that’s why they are an important part of the school year. However, for some children, these days and events draw attention to their families’ financial circumstances, and are a frequent and unwelcome reminder that, unlike their peers, they are not able to join in with all the opportunities school has to offer.
The Cost of Having Fun at School captures the experiences of pupils and parents with school fun. The quotes and experiences are taken from our work with schools across England, Scotland and Wales through our UK Cost of the School Day project, in partnership with Children North East. It highlights what we've heard from focus groups with over 8,000 pupils as well as the views of parents and carers.
The key findings in the report are:
- School fundraising and charity days are adding to financial pressures on families. Some pupils and families who are themselves struggling to get by are being asked to regularly donate to different charity and fundraising days at school.
- Not everyone is able to take part and enjoy dress up days and non-uniform days. Children and young people told us about the costs and social pressures of these days, and that this sometimes makes them feel embarrassed and left out. In some cases, teachers reported that pupils were missing school on these days.
- Activities like school fayres and book sales highlight differences between lower-income pupils and their peers. Some children described being left behind because they didn't have enough money to attend and enjoy these activities.
- Expensive leavers' celebrations are putting parents in an impossible situation. In some schools, leavers' celebrations such as residential trips and school proms are costing families over £200. This is posing a big challenge for lower income parents who don't want children to miss out but can't afford this significant cost.
We’ve also gathered ideas and suggestions from pupils and families about how events can be made more inclusive, and we’ve learned from good practice in schools. This paper highlights these insights and provides practical recommendations for schools, parent bodies and charities to ensure all children can make the most of the school day.
We've created an abridged version of this report for charities that are reflecting on their own approach to engaging pupils in their work and fundraising in schools.