I have to be honest, sending my girls to a government funded school is a lot more expensive than I expected, and that’s just with one child in full time education at the moment! With my oldest moving on to year 7 in September, and her little sister starting in Reception, I am already looking at our budget and working out where we can cover the costs of their free education.
Actually, my gripe is unfair because it isn't the cost of the education that is increasing, but the expense of everything that goes along with it. And, yes, I know it's a first world problem to moan about the fact that my children have both an education and a social life, but that doesn't make it any less of an issue when it comes time to pay for school trips, uniforms, meals, and various sundries.
A Children’s Commission on Poverty report found the average cost of uniforms was £108 for primary schools, and £126 for secondary pupils, and I am faced with buying both this summer. That report doesn’t take into account replacing outgrown shoes, lost jumpers, lunch boxes and drink bottles (which are ludicrously expensive, in my opinion) and school bags which just weren’t up to the task. Buying some items of uniform from supermarkets items can reduce this cost, but that’s no good if a school has embroidered badges on their jumpers, or specially printed sports kit. Some hand-me-downs will help cut the cost of uniform buying this year but I still expect to pay £200 to kit both my daughters out for their new schools.
Other financial treats in store for my overdraft include school trips (averaging over £50 per year for secondary school, and £25 for primary); and stationary, which thankfully isn’t much as both schools provide most items, but which will still end up costing around £20. Include music lessons at £45 per child per term, and I am glad I am sitting down because that’s already over £800, or £2,185 if the children decide they want school dinners!
I am not ranting because I know that all parents want to provide the very best for their children and as parents we budget for these things accordingly but what happens when you get an unexpected cost. Many children work on computers for their homework but what happens when the laptop breaks and you have tears at bedtime because they don’t have access to powerpoint that apparently they absolutely need to use for a presentation on the Vikings(!!). As parents it is easy to panic but thinking about responsible lending with a payday loan company such as Vivus could help to ease this pain for the short term. They offer short term loans of £100-£300 which is enough to cover a decent laptop and to prevent the melt down in a pre-treen.
We are fortunate to be in a position to provide everything our children need (though not everything they want!) but an alarming number of school children go without. 1.2 million pupils in England alone do not have access to a nutritious meal during the day - 700,000 of them live in low-income families whose parents are not entitled to claim benefits, while another 500,000 of them are entitled to free school meals, but their parents have not applied for them either because they don't know how, or because of potential stigma associated with claiming benefits.
We might complain about various education ministers and SATs, about the perceived deterioration in the standards of teaching, and about not being able to take our kids on holiday during term time, but with Pearson ranking Britain’s education system as the sixth best in the world as recently as 2014 (the last PISA ranking was in 2012) I can’t really gripe about having to spend £900 a year on my children’s school life when they get an education children in some parts of the world could never even dream of.