Cost of the School Day | CPAG

Cost of the School Day

breaking down the financial barriers to education

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, dress down days, amongst other costs, can be difficult or impossible to afford. Missing out on opportunities because of financial barriers and feeling different makes it harder for children and young people to learn, achieve and be happy at school.

Increasing numbers of families across Scotland are struggling financially. More than one in four (260,000) children are currently living in poverty and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecasts an increase of more than 50% in the proportion of children living in poverty in the UK by 2020/21.

Poverty has a ferocious and long lasting effect on children’s health, wellbeing and educational attainment. Mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing are essential for successful learning. However, food insecurity, housing problems and financial stress and worry all contribute to poorer health outcomes and children from low income households are more likely to report feeling useless and hopeless about their future.

In terms of qualifications, there remains a significant and persistent gap in attainment between children from lower and higher income families. Since attainment at school is so strongly linked to future employment prospects, education can represent a route out of poverty for many young people. However coming from a low income household can affect how children 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, S5)


Strategies to narrow the poverty attainment gap will be less effective if the cost barriers which shape and limit children’s opportunities at school aren’t first addressed. Cost of the School Day helps you to identify and overcome these barriers.

Cost of the School Day involves children, parents and school staff to identify cost barriers and in take action to remove them. In local authorities which have adopted the Cost of the School Day approach, a range of changes have been made to help eliminate costs, ensure equal access to opportunities and reduce poverty related stigma and differences.

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

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.

What's already happening around Scotland

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

Support, Advice and Training

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


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

Little girl in beaded dress

Local authorities taking the lead around Scotland

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.
child on tricycle

reports and publications

Further reading about the Cost of the School Day.

Latest news

Tackling Child Poverty in Schools: a role for school librarians?

12 April 2019
Child poverty in the UK is rising. The Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that child poverty will rise from the current level of 4.1 million to 5.2 million by 2021/22. This is largely due to cuts in the social security system that many children and families rely on. At the same time, other public services have seen significant cutbacks, which can leave families struggling on low incomes with little support.

Cost of the School Day - a head teacher's view

02 April 2019
David McNulty, Headteacher of Avenue End Primary School, outlines his school’s experiences with the Cost of the School Day project and the lessons learned. (This blog post first appeared on Glasgow Centre for Population Health's website)

Dundee City Council launches its four Cost of the School Day pledges

26 October 2018
In response to the findings of the Cost of the School Day Dundee report, we were delighted to work with Dundee City Council to launch four ambitious Cost of the School Day pledges at the new North East campus on Friday 26th October.