The cost of a school day

Even when we become parents ourselves most of us can still remember a time from our school days when we felt left out or excluded. Memories like that tend to stay with you, as do the feelings of embarrassment and discomfort that can go along with them.

For some children, however, feeling left out or 'different' at school is a regular occurrence. CPAG's Cost of a School Day project - which included research with pupils and teachers across 6 Glasgow schools - found that costs associated with education can lead to many pupils from low income households being excluded from the day to day experiences and activities their class mates take for granted.

One such cost is that of school trips and outings. Pupils and teachers expressed concerns about just how expensive school trips can be. Some pupils even said that they don't tell their parents about school trips because they know it's too expensive.

"I'm not angry at my mum because she's just had a baby and has three kids but it's pressure for the kids and pressure for the parents because my mum felt guilty that I couldn't go..." (Girl, P7)

The cost of school uniform is another financial barrier. Pupils explained how having cheap or inadequate clothing can be embarrassing, leading to teasing from friends and even punishment for wearing the wrong thing. Teachers too were aware of the problem.

"A lot of our children don't have indoor shoes, or if they do have them, they're falling apart. They're a danger, actually, they're too small. You see their feet hanging out the back of them…"

Other costs which were repeatedly highlighted included the cost of transport, the cost of stationery and equipment, and the cost of charity events, dress down days and school proms. All of these seemingly small costs can add up to exclude children from low income households. This not only affects children's happiness and wellbeing but could also have a very real impact on their educational attainment.

Of course, children aren't the only ones affected by the cost of school. Parents are feeling the pressure too with school costs often resulting in stress, worry and mounting debt for families. This comes at a time when many family budgets are already feeling the squeeze as a result of insecure employment and social security cuts.

"The blazer costs £95, the skirt costs £45 and you cannot buy that blazer in any other shop, it's only one shop, it's a designer shop and the skirt is £45 and I have two daughters, it's very expensive for me.'

CPAG are now focusing on what can be done to break down these cost barriers and help to give all children the best possible start in life. As well as campaigning for adequate school clothing grants across Scotland, we're spreading the learning from Cost of a School Day as widely as possible through teacher training programmes and by engaging with parent councils. We're also encouraging all schools in Scotland to 'poverty proof' their school day and identify improvements that can be made to ensure no one is excluded.  After all, every child in Scotland deserves the best start in life and the chance to take advantage of everything the Scottish education system has to offer.

For more information about the Cost of a School Day project visit or contact Marion Fairweather