'If you can’t afford it you just sit there on your own'

Even school charges as low as £1 can exclude schoolchildren, say pupils in comments to child poverty group

Henry Hepburn

'If you can’t afford it you just sit there on your own'

A child poverty group has highlighted the damaging impact when schools charge for activities and materials, even if the amounts seem small.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland has shared direct quotes from pupils that it has gathered in recent years, which show how charges can force them out of cookery lessons, music, sport and school trips.

The comments – which also include observations from teachers – reveal the shame and embarrassment felt by pupils when they have to sit out activities.


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CPAG Scotland shared the comments (below) today as it was announced that part of a £2 million UK-wide National Lottery grant, would go towards a project it is working on with Moray Council and the Northern Alliance, aimed at helping schools remove the financial barriers to learning for children and ease financial pressure on low-income parents.

John Dickie, director of CPAG Scotland, said: "Our work with schools and local authorities over the last five years in Scotland has shown that there are countless impactful ways to help make sure income doesn’t act as a barrier to education if we commit to listening to children and parents’ experiences and solutions."

 Subject costs

“I didnae want to pay 50 pence on home eccies [economics]. I didn't want to pay that...because then that takes money off my lunch money, and I was like, nah.” (Pupil)

 “Children have the embarrassment of us saying 'do you have your money? You can't cook today.‘” (home economics teacher)

“They might get instrument hire for free [if eligible for free school meals] but it’s the upkeep of instruments – oil for a trumpet, that’s a fiver or tenner that isn’t at home…the cost of music books, one book is £20 and you need another in three months…it’s 20 to 30 pounds for a box of clarinet reeds.”  (music teacher)

Travel costs

“I’m doing sound production so you’ve got to stay back after school and you’ve got to work on your project and all that. So it means I can’t get the school bus home.  I’ve got to pay for public transport afterwards.” (pupil)

Free school meals

“If your pals are going out at lunch you'll be a loner. It puts you out the group because they're going out and then you're sitting there on your own with a free meal." (pupil)

Uniform and equipment

“We used to get told we had to bring…old trainers to wear on the pitch. But everyone didn't have trainers.  (pupil)

"You see from day one the ones that it will get worse for, you see it as the term goes on – they all start smart and clean but then some families can replace [clothing] and some can’t(teaching staff)

“Some people won’t trial [for the football team] ‘cause they don’t have the equipment so don’t want to make a fool of themselves.” (pupil).

School trips and events

“Last day it was just me in my class, that was rubbish, majority of people were away on the trip” (pupil)

“If you can’t afford it you’re just sat there in your class on your own and do work while they go – Mr P says if you don’t go  you do need to work.” (pupil)

“There’s nothing to do at the summer fair if you don’t have money…even throwing a sponge at the teacher costs about £1 – I would just go home.” (pupil)

Learning at home

“The teacher wouldn’t accept my homework ‘cause it was handwritten but I don’t have a computer.” (pupil)

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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