Almost two-thirds of Scottish councils have secondaries that are charging families extra for practical classes like art and home economics, it has been revealed.
One Perth and Kinross secondary charges pupils on its National 5 hospitality course £125, while a secondary in East Ayrshire raised £12,000 through charging for practical classes over three years – although this year it decided to end the practice.
The figures were uncovered by the investigative news website The Ferret. It found – via freedom of information requests – that eight local authorities requested payments for materials in at least one subject in all their secondaries; 13 councils had some secondaries that asked for a contribution from parents; and six councils did not ask for any payments. The five remaining councils did not provide information.
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The range of charges, from £5 to £125, was condemned as “unacceptable” by the parents’ body Connect. Additional charges “fly in the face” of Scotland’s claim to an “inclusive and fair education system”, said partnership development officer Eleanor Coner.
Poorer pupils at a disadvantage
The system also came under fire from Scottish Labour, which said that schools were not properly funded. The Scottish government said that it was working to reduce costs for poorer students, including giving £120 million direct to heads to spend on closing the attainment gap.
Schools charge to cover the cost of resources such as cooking ingredients or woodworking materials needed for practical lessons. Most commonly this happens in home economics, hospitality, art and design and practical craft skills.
However, the investigation found wide variations in the charges passed down to parents both between, and within, council areas. Some schools expected weekly, termly or annual contributions from pupils, but others managed to avoid charges altogether.
The Scottish government stressed that all children should expect to be able to access all subjects and said that it was not acceptable for schools to ask pupils to pay for a core part of the curriculum.
The spokesperson added: “Councils have a legal responsibility for providing an adequate and efficient education, suitable to the needs of every child. Improving the education and life chances of all our children and young people – irrespective of their background – is one of the defining missions of the Scottish government.”