Parents ‘cutting back on food and heating’ to cover cost of school basics

Millions of parents are struggling to afford school costs, leaving their children unable to make the most of their education, according to a major report. The report has revealed that parents are shelling out around £800 a year, per child, on basics such as uniform, meals, text books, trips and technology.

The Children's Commission on Poverty has found that in some cases, families have resorted to cutting back on clothing, food or heating, and in some cases even borrowing money to pay for school-related items.

The report has warned that some children from poorer backgrounds had been embarrassed, or even bullied, because their family could not afford the right books or to send them on school trips.

"Too many children are missing out on the opportunity to make the very most of their education, because they struggle to afford the costs of school life,” the report said.

Two-thirds of families in the UK - the equivalent of more than three million - say they have struggled with the cost of school. This then rises to 95% among those who have said they are "not well off at all".

According to the report:

  • Overall, families are spending about £6.4 billion a year on school costs - £800 for every primary or secondary age child.
  • Over half (52%) of parents admitted they had cut back on clothing, food or heating to meet a school-related cost.
  • One in four (25%) said they had borrowed money.

Despite government guidance for schools, which says that value for money on school uniform should be a priority, many parents are still forced to buy expensive items because of special names or logos.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "The report contains some excellent recommendations, including the suggestion of extending the offer of free school meals to low-income working families.

"NAHT provides advice to its members and schools on the Department for Education rules about the cost of school uniforms and charging for text books and school trips. This should ensure that children are not excluded merely because of living in poverty."

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