How to make school affordable for struggling families

New advice is designed to take pressure off pupils by reducing the cost of the school day

Henry Hepburn

How to make school affordable for struggling families

The “cost of the school day” – the impact that financial struggles can have on pupils and their families – is an idea that has moved to the forefront of many educators’ minds in recent years.

Today, Fife Council, one of Scotland’s biggest local authorities, revealed the advice it is giving to schools “to address these costs and help ease the burden on families”.

Almost a quarter of children in Fife live in poverty, said education and children’s services committee convener Fay Sinclair, and it was “well documented that poverty can have a huge impact on children’s attainment in school”.

The new advice, which Fife schools have helped to shape, includes the following:

School uniform

  • Have a uniform swap shop/clothing bank.
  • "Poverty-proof" your uniform. Does it need a badge? Is it easily available from cheaper high street stores?
  • Discourage “labels” and dress-down days.
  • Could “leavers hoodies” be given out for free?

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Learning at school

  • All learning resources should be provided by the school.
  • Consider having a ‘”swap shop” of books/textbooks/revision books.

Travel to school

  • Pupils representing their school at an event should not incur any costs.
  • Consider helping parents in rural areas by holding events in their communities.

School clubs

  • Offer free clubs and subsidise places where costs are unavoidable.
  • Hold clubs at lunchtime to make participation easier for pupils with demands outside of school hours.

Fun events

  • Monitor the number of events planned across each school year and minimise those for which families will be charged.
  • Make donations optional rather than having set charges.

Eating at school

  • Have extra food available in schools: breakfast clubs, toast, fruit.
  • Consider your system for paying for meals – is it stigmatising?

School trips

  • Ensure that families have plenty of notice for trips that incur a charge.
  • Make sure that families with more than one child are not unfairly penalised.
  • Send letters about trips with costs in an envelope – this means the child can’t see and decide they can’t afford it before it reaches the parent.
  • Consider the justification and planned learning for the trips – can it be done elsewhere or for less money?

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