New project aims to cut cost of school day for low income families

By agency reporter
January 28, 2020

A £2 million National Lottery-backed project to support children’s learning and ease financial pressure on low-income parents starts today (28 January 2020) with 128 schools across the UK set to take action over the next three years.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), working with project partners Children North East, will use the National Lottery funding to help schools remove the financial barriers to learning and participation that hold low-income children back, alongside easing the pressure that school-related costs place on struggling families.

The project will draw on previous work by both organisations that has helped schools to explore and address the impact of poverty on education. Now, thanks to the National Lottery funding, UK Cost of the School Day will roll out to schools in Coventry, Neath Port Talbot, the London boroughs of Greenwich, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, as well as expanding to Moray in Scotland.

Through a structured, pupil-led approach, UK Cost of the School Day project staff will work with children and young people, families, teachers, school staff and local authorities to identify ‘cost barriers’ in each school – and to co-design ‘action plans’ to remove them.

Inclusion levels and changes in pupils’ experiences of school  will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention throughout the first two years of the project, with the final year focusing on spreading changes that have a positive impact for pupils, beyond the initial 128 schools.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “School days are supposed to be the best days of a child’s life, but instead for some children and their families, they can be a source of anxiety if there are extra and unexpected costs for parents.

“Nine children in every class of 30 are growing up in poverty and although school is free, increasing costs are putting a great strain on families, causing some children to miss out on aspects of school life.

“This is why we’re delighted with the funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. This project will help schools work out what they can do differently to help to bridge these gaps – by making small changes to school life, they can make a huge difference to a child.”

Pupils and staff in schools which have been involved in the earlier Children North East and CPAG in Scotland projects reported a range of cost-barriers to learning, including:

Subject costs (e.g. materials for Art, Home Economics, IT, and the cost of theatre trips for Drama)

  • Not having IT at home for homework
  • Lack of money for school trips
  • Lack of money for travel-to-school fares (or travel home from after school activities which end after the free bus has left)
  • Cost of buying past exam papers and other revision materials
  • Cost of hiring and maintaining a musical instrument

A range of bespoke changes were recommended by these projects, to stop financial exclusion at school, including:

  • Choosing more affordable school trips, subsidising trips and/ or allowing parents to pay for trips in instalments
  • Providing sibling discounts for fun events and trips
  • Removing curriculum costs for subjects like home economics and technology
  • Providing a starter pack for entry level pupils of bag, pencil case and stationery and setting up homework clubs with resources such as IT
  • Reviewing school uniform policies, recycling school uniform items, buying plain blazers and ironing on badges
  • Improved promotion of school clothing grants and free school meals 
  • Sharing bus hire with nearby schools
  • Setting up breakfast clubs and breakfast boxes for pupils
  • Reducing or removing costs for after school clubs and activities

John Knights, Senior Head of the UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players this project will support school children to be able to fully and equally take part in all aspects of school life. Importantly the project is putting young people in the lead to create solutions that reduce the stigma that they can feel and enable them to thrive.”

Michele Deans, Operations Director at Children North East said: “Children North East is enormously proud of our Poverty Proofing the School Day initiative and we're delighted to be partnering with Child Poverty Action Group on this important work. We’re looking forward to using our combined expertise to support more schools across the UK and ensure that every pupil can fully participate in school, regardless of family income.”

* Child Poverty Action Group


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