State school parents face “an unacceptable tax on learning”

While parents on lower incomes struggle to meet school-related costs, their children face playground bullying and fall behind academically.

Millions of families are struggling to pay for basics such as school dinners, uniforms, course materials and trips, and are being forced to scrimp on essentials like food and heating to pay for them, The Guardian reports.

According to a report from the Children’s Commission on Poverty, parents face average annual bills of £800. However with some state secondary uniforms costing more than £500, this cost can be much higher. With more than 95% of parents on low incomes, reporting difficulties meeting school-related costs, the Guardian report said that the idea of a free education is “far from reality”.

The inquiry panel was made up of 16 young people who said that many poorer children fall behind academically and are subject to humiliation and bullying because they “stand out” in the classroom.  They claimed that teachers and schools often don’t comprehend the psychological impact of poverty on pupils, failing to prevent them being stigmatised.

Uniforms aren’t the only expense parents struggle with:

  • School meals cost £400 a year on average, but over 540,000 children living in poverty do not qualify for free meals
  • Books, stationery and equipment cost an average of £60 per child
  • A third of children say they have fallen behind at school because they could not afford a computer or internet access

NASUWT said the report showed how parents were being hit by “an unacceptable tax on learning, which is hitting the poorest families the hardest”.

Does your school have measures in place to monitor the effects of this issue on your students? How are you helping to manage the psychological effect that some students experience?

9 thoughts on “State school parents face “an unacceptable tax on learning”

  1. oh dear oh dear oh dear. this really takes the biscuit.

    if 540,00 living in poverty dont qualify for FSM , then they ARE NOT LIVING IN POVERTY , ok ?

    a third of kids say they’ve fallen behind because they cant afford a computer or net access.Actually this mean parents havent prioritised it, NOT that kids cant afford it.

    Books stationery etc £60.00 ..what ?? A year ?? That’s a mega £5.00 a MONTH.
    take it off the mobile phone contract, guys.

    ‘Tax on learning’ ? do me a favour.
    desperate for some piffling headline.
    wise up .
    get real.

  2. I am a supply teacher struggling to survive. My kids are suffering as we can’t afford heating and have had to cut right back on food. We don’t get any help as my husband works. Yes he works but we can’t pay our bills and we’ve done everything we can to reduce them. The extra bills from school for resources, the essential computer, compulsory trips, uniform is hitting hard.

  3. Pedro, clearly you don’t understand the relationship between Working Family Tax Credit and Free School Meals!

    You only need to be doing 16hrs (single parent, 24 as a couple) per week at the minimum wage to qualify for WFTC. As soon as you qualify for WFTC you lose FSM.

    To judge 540,000 people not getting FSM as meaning they are not living in poverty is PURE IGNORANCE on your part… I think YOU need to wise up and start living in the real world!

  4. With regards to free school meals, our family is living in poverty, on a low single person income and we don’t qualify for free school meals because I am not eligible as I am in reciept of the wrong type of benefit. Affording a laptop is something we manage because I keep the same one I had before I had children (we have yet to experience the trials of secondary school) but we do manage to afford internet as obviously our primary aged children are not old enough for a mobile. So I think that some of the circumstances described are certainly accurate, affording school clothes can be hard, I have had to utter the words “I couldn’t afford to buy new school shoes”, which as a parent is a heart breaking thing to have to say and we’ve had to ask our families for help with uniform this year. It’s the first year I’ve been without work but poverty has kicked us in the teeth and I know we aren’t alone in it, it’s just such a shock when you realise you can’t afford things.

  5. Oh dear oh dear. Mr Pedro This is only true if you accept that the criteria gor free school meals are indeed reasonable criteria for judging poverty. That it is always possible for parents to prioritise internet access over other things(which it isn ‘t, due to a wide number of factors including language difficulties, mental health and, yes, POVERTY). I know many parents who cannot aggord PAYG, let alone a contract. It sounds like some of the concepts in this post are taxing the limits of your intelligence and your compassion. Wise up. Get real.

  6. I agree again with the above.

    If statistics were published regarding the so called ‘wealthy’ who pay 40%+ in tax, no longer qualify for child benefit and have to pay for everything it could show as in my case that many so called middle class children are the ones suffering. My child was unable to go on a residential trip because I am apparently so well off I can afford everything. I couldn’t afford it which led to a confrontation with the headteacher who told me I was irresponsible for not allowing my child to go at a cost of over £200 for a two night bring your own sleeping bag bonding session…………
    Calculations show that with all the add-ons those on low incomes receive such as:
    benefit top ups;
    free school meals;
    free study materials provided by schools as a result of pupil premium allowances;
    reduced cost trips;
    free summer activity camps……….and the list goes on and on they are more financially sound.

    As for computers the government has a scheme providing free broadband in some areas again for those on benefits. Schools and libraries provide access to computers and internet access for those who wish to use it.

    I now realise why low income and the benefit society is so appealing to some and equally frustrating to those who have worked hard, overcame societal challenges and succeeded.

    In a previous life I worked for the local authority regarding non payment of rent and council tax. I can assure you that some of the properties I had to visit that pleaded poverty lived in much better conditions that I did and some even had a car for free on the mobility scheme.

  7. Sorry to not agree with the previous people but the blog is very true! If you live in a low wage county. In Cornwall most people are on £6.35 per hour. The teaching standard was so bad ( Staff bullying pupils) at our local school 1 mile away from our home that we had no choice but to move our 7year old..a bright, friendly, enthusiastic child whose confidence was totally crushed at the primary school. We now have a 60 mile a day school run..its been worth it as the new school was brilliant and he has now gone to the conected Secondary school, having left primary with Level 5+ SAT results! But it has impacted on our income. We dont drink or smoke, can not afford to heat the house. My husband has a health condition so his income is limited……£200 per week does not cover essentials & vehicle running costs( needed if living in Cornwall) let alone school trips and the voluntary compulsorary donations we are expected to pay or causr our son humiliatio. This is the real world of the hard working low paid Cornish people. Our situation has not been caused by us but by the local despicable primary school!

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