After the announcement came that students will be returning to school in the UK, some families are worried about the costs they have to incur for their children’s education. School cost per student in the UK consists of compulsory items which puts more pressure on parents.
Pupils in the UK will return to school following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions across the country, but families have new challenges to face. Scottish pupils have already returned to their classrooms and schools across England, Northern Ireland, and Wales will reopen their doors in the coming weeks. While the core discussion in mainstream media circles around the health conditions of in-person interaction, some parents are also worried about shouldering the cost of schooling. Extra costs include commuting, uniforms and shoes, technology and accessories, packed lunches, school events, and after- school education programmes, as well as monetary contributions that schools ask for.
According to Child Poverty Action Group, more than half the parents in the UK struggle to cover the costs of childcare, clothes, food, rent, transportation, etc. Research by MoneySuperMarket also suggests that many parents are worried about the cost of putting their children through school, and many are anxious about affording expenses such as transportation and extracurricular activities.
Returning to School is Costly
The Barnardo’s organisation in a survey asked parents and children about going back to school. Around half of the parents still prefer their children to stay at home because they are worried about the risk of contracting Covid-19. The parents of 60% of children and young people said they worry about Covid-19 with schools reopening. But another main concern for parents is the cost of sending a child back to school. Parents feel overburdened and stressed about affording school costs, such as books, clothes, transportation, etc.
The Barnardo’s Back to School Survey found that the minimum cost for a senior pupil being sent to school in 2020 was €330. Parents who have more than one child feel a heavier burden as school costs rise multiple times. Based on Barnardo’s’ survey, school cost for a first year pupil is including stationery, uniforms, classroom resources, transportation, etc. Some parents think that they should receive a back to school allowance to help them with their children’s education costs.
School Costs a Burden on Parents
More than half of parents whose children go to primary or secondary school say they have to cut back on expenses or are forced to avoid paying other bills for school costs. Some families have to take loans or borrow from family or friends, and some have to borrow from a moneylender to pay for their child’s education. Spending money on clothes and footwear is the biggest cost for parents. School uniform policy is set by the School Board of Management, who should consider the burden on families and set policies suitable for students from all backgrounds. Although many parents work, the high costs are not easily affordable. The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) is a necessary support for many families. Around 40% of primary school parents and around 50% of secondary school parents have applied for allowances before, and a good number of them were not successful in receiving it.
Schools Ask Parents for Voluntary Contributions
Other than uniforms, books are one of the main expenditures for parents when school starts. On average, primary school pupils spend 110 euros on books and secondary school students 225 euros. Parents believe the cost of textbooks is ridiculous and some complain about new editions. To reduce the burden on families, there should be access to a rental books scheme or copies instead of buying new books.
In addition, both primary and secondary schools in the UK seek to collect voluntary monetary help from parents. Around 65% of parents of primary school children and 75% of parents of secondary school pupils are asked for a voluntary contribution. This can add significant pressure on parents and, on top of all the other expenses, push many to breaking point, especially those with more than one child at school. According to Barnardo’s survey, some schools ask parents to pay online and then print the receipt as proof of payment. Some schools do not give the child their individual homework diary in class until the contribution has been paid.
Free Schools Can Help Parents Cope with Expenses of Raising a Child
The UK government should act to protect students by taking measures to ensure that those students who are educationally disadvantaged do not have the same experiences again or be deprived of school. As parents are getting ready to send their children back to school soon, they are facing new concerns and pressures in addition to the old ones. The UK government’s lack of certainty and action adds to parental worries. Parents have been talking to Barnardo’s about the burden of children’s education costs for over a decade now.
These costs affect their daily lives and family budget, and sometimes they have to cut back on other requirements to be able to afford them. Barnardo’s has suggested measures such as an increase to the school capitation rate, a free textbooks pilot project and, in general, a free school system for all students. While expenses for raising a child in the UK have been increasing, measures by the government to decrease a child’s educational expenses can help the families to cope with the financial pressures of raising a child.
Schools are reopening across the UK after a long closure due to Covid-19. Besides concerns over the disease, returning to school is also very costly for parents. The costs of uniforms, books and transportation, are among the extra expenses affecting parents.
Raising a child in the UK has become increasingly expensive and families have to cut back on spending on leisure, hobbies, toys and holidays, to be able to afford to raise a child. The UK government should provide more back to school allowances, offer more funding for schools to give free textbooks, free food, and a free school system for all children to help families cope with the financial pressures of raising a child.