Guest post by Marion Fairweather - Cost of the school day Project Manager, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland.
Many families across Scotland are living on low-incomes and struggling to meet the basic costs of everyday life. Over the past years the cost of living has increased (between 2007- 2015 the price of food increased by 29%) and now over half the children living in poverty are from families where at least one adult in their household is in work- work is no guarantee against poverty.
In Glasgow the Poverty Leadership Panel established a project, delivered by Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, to look at the cost of the school day and to find out how school costs impacted on low-income families. We worked with eight schools (four primary and four secondary schools), speaking to children, teachers and parents listening to their experiences of the ways that costs affect their experience of school. One of the main findings was that school costs, from uniforms, to school lunches to the summer trip, put pressure on families with already stretched budgets and can result in children missing out on valuable opportunities.
It is around issues like cost that Parent Councils (PCs) and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) can play an invaluable role in raising parents’ concerns with the school and developing solutions to overcome the barriers that cost can create. From speaking to Parent Councils in Glasgow we know that they are doing great work, for example:
- · Using money in their budget to provide a Halloween disco for free (which allowed lots of children who might otherwise have not attended to come)
- · Running uniform banks providing low-cost new or nearly new uniforms for families
- · Giving all children coming into Primary One a school tie (donated by former P7s)
The Cost of the school day report has also made PCs and PTAs stop and reflect on their own practice- thinking of when and how many fundraising events they have and if these risked putting pressure on low-income families. However, while PCs and PTAs really want to take action to reduce the cost of the school day, consulting with parents can be difficult. There is still a lot of stigma around poverty and it can be difficult for parents to admit that they are struggling to cover costs.
Cost of the school day, together with a working group of PCs and PTAs members from across Glasgow schools, are working to develop tools to help PCs and PTAs consult with parents and a bank of good practice ideas to reduce costs and ensure all children can take advantage of the opportunities open to them in school.