Cost of the School Day practice hub

Schools across Scotland are doing fantastic work to minimise costs, maximise opportunities and address stigma for children from low-income households. Here we share some of the good practice gathered from schools and local authorities adopting a Cost of the School Day approach.  
Avoiding costs on World Book Day

Dressing up for World Book Day can put financial pressure on families and create difficult situations for children on low incomes. This short paper highlights the cost, embarassment and effect on attendance that calls to dress up can create. 

“It might only be £1 but then there’s the costume – it’s only the supermarkets making money.” (Parent)

“I got really upset [when I was in uniform instead of a costume], I felt like I was left out and different from everybody.” (Pupil, P5)

“Some people stay off or wear their uniform – I think they're just saying they forgot.” (Pupil, P5)

More and more schools are avoiding the difficulties that dressing up can create for families and children and opting for creative no cost alternatives.



For World Book Day ideas which don’t cost money:

New Cost of the School Day Practice Insight series

The Cost of the School Day Practice Insight series focuses on how schools across Scotland are addressing the financial barriers faced by children and families on low incomes. These papers bring together examples of practice in schools which help to reduce costs and support children and families affected by poverty and are intended to be gathered here a useful resource for anybody looking to take action on child poverty in school settings.

Practice Insight 1 - School Uniform

There are a wide variety of interventions taking place across Scotland to help families on low incomes access school uniform in an affordable and non-stigmatising way. Examples from schools gathered together in this Practice Insight paper focus on reducing costs (income aware policy, uniform provision, low cost uniform schemes, payment schemes and reviewing non-uniform days) or helping to increase family incomes so that children and young people are able to buy uniform in the same way as everybody else (supporting families to access the new national £100 minimum school clothing grant and otherfinancial assistance).

Schools say that this work helps to reduce parental stress, pressure and guilt, build stronger home-school relationships and increase incomes through school clothing grant awareness and uptake. Schools also say that support with uniform means reduced difference and stigma and happier children and young people with an increased sense of belonging to the school community and, crucially, improved participation at school.

Find out more about practice on school uniforms here in our Practice Insight 1: School Uniform.

Practice case studies
Pupil Anti-Poverty Working Group leading change in their school

This case study describes the valuable work undertaken by the Pupil Anti-Poverty Working Group at Queen Anne High School (QAHS) in Dunfermline, Fife, and suggests how this could be replicated in other schools. Click here to find out more.

Key messages from Queen Anne High school case study top tips

Uniform reuse and recycling: Apparel XChange

This case study describes one approach to supporting families with uniform costs, Apparel Xchange, a social enterprise dedicated to school uniform reuse.

"At Castleton Primary we have been discussing and reflecting on the Cost of the School Day report and have, for the last couple of years, been working towards reducing the number of financial demands on our families. Working with ApparelXchange helps support our goal of reducing costs and, in addition, helps us understand the impact of clothing on the environmment and society." (Jackie McIvor, Castleton Primary School in Glasgow)

Good practice tips from Scottish Learning Festival delegates

We asked delegates at our Scottish Learning Festival Cost of the School Day seminar to jot down some of the good practice in tackling financial barriers to participation currently taking place in their contexts. Read all of the great ideas they shared here.

Cost of the School Day good practice from delegates at Scottosh Learning Festival 2017

School spotlight: Focus on equity at Port Glasgow High School, Inverclyde

Approaches to achieve equity are a major focus for the new session at Port Glasgow High School in Inverclyde. The school community has recently voted to add EQUITY to their core values and tackling the cost of the school day is high up the agenda for their improvement work in this area. As part of its initial work the school has developed:

  • Uniform Recycling Shop - access to reconditioned uniform for 50p per item
  • Blazer Hire Scheme - allowing parents to hire blazers for a two year period at low cost
  • A Social Inclusion Fund - to promote the discrete removal of barriers to participation
  • Training plans in partnership with CPAG for all staff on the Cost of the School Day
  • Extended training for support staff to develop family learning sessions on income maximisation

Head Teacher Stuart Clark has completed his first year in charge of the school and is looking forward to taking forward the school’s initiatives to develop equity for all:

“There is a serious commitment to equity in Inverclyde. Tackling the significant costs of participation in school is an important part of this. I was delighted our pupils, parents and staff voted overwhelmingly to add equity to our school values. We have exciting plans for the session ahead and appreciate the expertise and guidance we have received from the Child Poverty Action Group.”

Dumfries and Galloway schools tackling 'the Big 4' school costs for families

Consultation with young people in Dumfries and Galloway helped to identify four main costs standing in the way of their full participation at school: the costs of learning, travel, food and uniform. This year, Dumfries and Galloway Council are taking practical steps to reduce costs in these areas:

  • No charging for curriculum - no costs for Home Economics and Technical Classes
  • More uniform options along with swap shops and recycling
  • Non-punitive responses for ‘forgotten’ items
  • Greater promotion of FSM/ clothing grant
  • More financial support information available
  • Classroom resources available for all children to use
  • School fundraising / careful balance of charity work
  • Reviewed school trip policy and more fully inclusive
  • Supported travel for school sport

Sanquhar Primary offered new P1 pupils right through to current P7 pupils free swimming sessions throughout July, this also includes free swimming for of an adult with 4-7 year olds. They are carrying out an evaluation of this in August and depending on the results of this, considering running over other holiday periods such as October. They are also running a summer school week which includes lunches and healthy snacks.

Park Primary in Stranraer offered a Tuesday club throughout the summer holidays where a wide range of activities was coordinated by the headteacher to provide support for families. These days were developed in partnership with the children’s services centre and many partners, providing lunches, family learning activities, health and wellbeing activities and also financial information and associated support.

Renfrewshire Council allocated £280,000 funding to schools in session 2016/17 to support pupils with costs which limited their learning and participation

"The Cost of the School Day funding has allowed our school to support pupils to engage with some school activities which may otherwise have been out of reach. From educational trips to art materials, homework support packs and home economics cooking costs, the pressure has been taken off families in a discreet and sensitive way. Furthermore, this additional funding has encouraged our staff to consider the hidden costs in coming to school, and to be mindful that poverty is a very real issue for some of our pupils and parents."

Lynne Hollywood, Acting HT, Johnstone High School, Facing up to child poverty in Renfrewshire presentation

The cost of the school day- a head teacher's view

David McNulty, Head Teacher of Avenue End Primary School in Glasgow, shares his experiences of Cost of the School Day and the impact it has had in his school.

"It takes all of us" A whole school approach to reduce the costs of the school day

Read about how some schools have used parents' skills, local community groups and children's ideas to reduce costs, maximise incomes and tackle the stigma around poverty:

Other Cost of the School Day ideas gathered from schools across Scotland 
Uniform costs and stigma are identified as problematic in many schools. Actions from some schools have included:
  • removing the need for badged uniform
  • improving the promotion of school clothing grants to parents and carers
  • holding uniform recycling days
  • sourcing cheaper suppliers and advising parents and carers
  • giving the 'benefit of the doubt' when school uniform isn't suitable - exploring this sensitively rather than disciplining automatically.
When resources for learning in school and at home have been identified as lacking, some schools have acted to:
  • ensure that resources are on hand in class for everyone
  • ensure that different teachers shared consistent expectations around resources
  • offer a wide range of study support sessions and homework clubs with access to Past Papers
  • set homework that doesn't assume straightforward access to ICT at home
When uptake of Free School Meals, clothing grants and Educational Maintenance Allowance have been identified as an issue, some schools:
  • improved distribution of forms with regular and varied enquiries to all parents throughout year
  • provided greater support for parents and carers to complete forms.
When children said that trips and fun events put them under pressure, schools responded by:
  • starting ‘chuck it in a bucket’ fundraising rather than asking for set sums
  • reviewing number of non-uniform days and weighing up benefits vs. potential risks to family budgets and children's attendance
  • spacing trips and events out across the year with several weeks notice given
  • organising supermarket bag packing sessions and other forms of fundraising which don't rely on families 
  • ensuring that Parent Councils are aware of the issues and plan so that discos and other events don't always cost money.

These are just a handful of the changes made by schools working to tackle the Cost of the School Day. Are you or your colleagues striving to reduce costs and financial stigma? Have your actions made a difference to children and their families? Could others learn from what you’ve been up to? Email