1. Unexpected or short-notice charges for trips, events and activities can be impossible for families on tight budgets.
Give as much warning as possible for anything you’re planning and avoid expensive times of year, such as Christmas. Consider producing a “cost calendar” at the start of the year, so that families know what is expected and when.
2. Poverty is often hidden and you may not always know which families need help.
Produce regular, whole-school communications promoting support – such as subsidies for trips, sibling discounts, instalments, uniform banks, breakfast and homework clubs – to alert families to what’s available and send the message that they can approach you for support.
3. Free school meals, clothing grants and education maintenance allowances can save families hundreds of pounds a year and ensure that children eat well and have the uniforms they need.
Offer support to all families to complete forms, at key points (such as induction meetings and parents’ evenings) and throughout the year (via websites, apps, letters and posters).
4. Children say it’s embarrassing being unable to afford things such as trips or subject charges, but often don’t feel able to speak up about it.
Explore mechanisms allowing pupils to tell staff discreetly when they are finding costs difficult.
5. Fundraising in school can place pressure on low-income families.
Consider activities that don’t require pupil donations, (such as supermarket bag-packing) and involve the parent council in planning inclusive fundraising. Pool your knowledge of local and national funders, and create a school funding directory to draw on.
6. Many families aren’t receiving the financial help they are entitled to. You don’t need to become an expert on the benefits system. Instead, make links with your local advice agency so that you can signpost or refer families for further information and support.
7. Review school policies and practices with family incomes in mind.
Is your uniform as affordable as it could be? Are trips inclusive? Are all opportunities in your school open to all children?
Advice provided by the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland. Its Cost of the School Day Toolkit is available at bit.ly/CostSchoolDay