News, events and reports

Claim ‘school isn’t free’ as pupils miss out on subjects due to costs

Read more at: ‘school isn’t free’ as pupils miss out on subjects due to costs


Dundee City Council launches its 4 Cost of the School Day pledges

Following the findings of the Cost of the School Day Dundee report, we were delighted to work together with Dundee City Council to launch their four Cost of the School Day pledges at the new North East campus on Friday 26th October.

  1. No child or young person in Dundee will start school without a breakfast
  2. No child in Dundee will miss out on their Primary 7 residential trip due to cost
  3. All schools will develop a Cost of the School Day action plan by the end of session 2018/2019
  4. All children and young people in Dundee schools will have access to an affordable school uniform

New national Cost of the School Day Toolkit launched alongside The Cost of School film resource (September 2018) 

Today (04/09/2018), Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland and NHS Health Scotland have jointly launched a suite of resources to raise awareness of school costs, prompt discussion and support action on child poverty in schools. 

The first resource is a new national Cost of the School Day Toolkit, full of resources to support action on reducing financial barriers to participation at school for children from low income households. Research shows that school costs stand in the way of children's learning and taking part in school. This toolkit supports consultation on school costs with whole school communities and highlights the steps which schools and local authorities can take to reduce costs and support children and families on low incomes.

The second resource from NHS Health Scotland is a short film on the cost of school. The film shows a range of people, including teachers, parent councils and community planners, sharing their current experiences and insights on some of the impacts of poverty on school life and barriers to participation in it.

Sara Spencer, Cost of the School Day Project Manager at CPAG in Scotland, said:

"School costs must not stop children from low income households from participating, thriving and achieving to their fullest potential. Every child in Scotland should be able to make the most of the school day without costs standing in their way. There are countless ways in which schools can support children and families on low incomes and many schools and local authorities are already doing fantastic things to reduce and remove the costs of the school day. The Cost of the School Day toolkit is packed full of helpful tried and tested resources which can support schools and local authorities to listen to children and families and design their own approaches to addressing financial barriers."

More information can be found here

Access the Cost of the School Day Toolkit here

Watch and share The Cost of School film here

New poverty related Attainment Challenge Partnership project launched by Young Scot (August 2018)

A new Attainment Challenge Partnership has been launched by Young Scot. Working with six local authorities, Transport Scotland and Improvement Services the partnership will utilise the smart-enabled Young Scot National Entitlement Card to deliver new targeted and bespoke local smart-entitlements and opportunities, focussed on travel, health and wellbeing, to tackle inequalities, improve attainment in education and challenge rural poverty.

The first stage will focus on pilot projects in North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and the Highlands where the Young Scot National Entitlement Card will be used to deliver entitlements including preloaded travel tickets in Renfrewshire, access to breakfast in schools in North Ayrshire, and sportswear and equipment in Highlands.

Read more about the project here.

Report of the Education and Skills Committee inquiry into poverty and attainment published (July 2018)

The Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee has made a number of recommendations relevant to Cost of the School Day following its inquiry into the impact of poverty on attainment and achievement of school-aged children and young people.

The Committee recommends a range of activities focused on removing cost barriers to education and supporting families on low incomes.

  • Scottish Government to survey all education authorities to establish which authorities sanction charging for in-school activities and the level of these charges and to undertake a review of which elements of the experiences offered by schools may attract a charge and the cumulative impact of these charges
  • During standard review processes of their schools, education authorities should undertake impact assessments on existing policies and associated practices to assess the impact on low-income families.
  • Education authorities ensure that school leaders are mindful of potential impacts of school practice on families with low incomes and are equipped to undertake equality impact assessments if necessary
  • Excessively expensive or unnecessary pieces of school uniform should not be required. Reducing the complexity of school uniforms would reduce the cost burden of education on families. The Committee recommends that education authorities invite schools to poverty-proof their uniform policies and ensure that schools should have an emphasis on supportive policies that are mindful of young people who, due to poverty, do not have the full school uniform.
  • Scottish Government should undertake a cost-benefit analysis of rolling out a system of using more schools as hubs for income maximisation advisory services

Read the full Committee report here.

120,000 families to benefit from new £100 national minimum school clothing grant (May 2018)

CPAG in Scotland is delighted to welcome the new £100 national minimum school clothing grant in Scotland. We have been campaigning with One Parent Families Scotland, the Poverty Truth Commission and others over many years for a minimum level of grant.

Currently school clothing grants vary – from £50 to £110 – depending on where families live.  Now, all eligible families, regardless of their local authority area, will have access to the same minimum level of financial support for school clothing. 

The scheme opens in time for the 2018/19 academic year with eligibility determined at a local level. The grant will be reviewed every two years to ensure that the amount available remains in line with cost of living.

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, welcomed the news.

“This is great news for the thousands of families who struggle to meet the costs of school clothing on top of all the other essentials they need to budget for. £100 is now the absolute minimum grant that must be offered to families struggling on low incomes. Grants are already higher in some areas, and the actual cost of kitting out a child for school was recently calculated as £129.50. But this new £100 minimum provides a very welcome basic level of consistent support for parents, wherever they live in Scotland.”

"Claim ‘school isn’t free’ as pupils miss out on subjects due to costs" - The Scotsman, 19 April 2018

John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, giving evidence at the Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee's inquiry into poverty and attainment, highlighted Cost of the School Day evidence of the impact of having to pay for curriculum costs in subjects such as home economics, art and design, technical studies, English and drama and music.

“The reality is that too often education isn’t free; what’s offered in school isn’t free, pupils and families are being charged for it...There is real evidence of young people actually making subject choices influenced by cost...There’s two things: pupils are actually missing out on those subjects, not being able to participate, or their ability to enjoy those subjects, knowing that is causing a stress for them and their families to participate, is diminished.”

In response, a Scottish Government spokeswoman made clear that charging pupils should not be ­happening in Scottish schools.

“All children should expect to be able to access all subjects. It is not acceptable for schools to ask pupils to pay for a core part of their curriculum... Councils have a legal responsibility for providing an adequate and efficient education, suitable to the needs of every child. Within this settlement, sufficient resource should be made available to schools for supplies and equipment, with specific ­levels of funding for schools determined by individual councils.”

CPAG in Scotland Cost of the School Day submission to the Scottish Parliament's inquiry into poverty and attainment

The Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee is holding an inquiry on the impact of experiencing poverty on young people at school, including their attainment and their achievement.

In our response to the Committee’s call for written evidence on poverty and attainment we highlighted the importance of tackling the key drivers of poverty, as well as setting out the impact that action to reduce or remove cost barriers across the school day can make to children and their families.

"Child poverty rates in Scotland look set to rise further in coming years without substantial policy changes at UK and Scotland level. It is vital that the Scottish Parliament prioritises action to end that poverty. In the meantime, children from low income households can’t achieve at school if barriers created by poverty are not addressed. Cost of the School Day interventions puts money in family pockets and helps schools to remove financial barriers, clearing the way for children to fully participate, learn and achieve."

Click here to read our written evidence to the inquiry.

John Dickie, Director of CPAG, will be drawing on the Cost of the School Day project in his forthcoming appearance before the Scottish Parliament Education Committee (18th April). 

Can we put the 'poverty of aspiration' myth to bed now? New research briefing from the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships

This briefing paper by Morag Treanor of CRFR uses responses from parents and children in the birth cohort study Growing Up in Scotland to dispel the myth of the ‘poverty of aspiration’ widely used in education and policy circles in Scotland and beyond.

"The problem with the ‘poverty of aspiration’ as a concept is not only that the research evidence does not support it, but also that it passes the responsibility for a presumed lack of aspirations onto parents and children. In so doing it shifts responsibility away from local and central government, and schools to children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Attempting to close the attainment gap by raising aspirations is unlikely to succeed because it is based on false assumptions about low aspirations."

Key points

  • The poverty of aspiration is a myth that transfers responsibility for aspirations and achievement from governments and schools to parents and children
  • School is important to, and for, children living in poverty
  • All parents want the best for their child(ren) but lower income parents are less likely to know what is possible or how to achieve it
  • Lower income parents are less likely to know how to support their child’s education.

Click here to read the briefing paper.

New national Cost of the School Day Parent Council Toolkit

Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG) and National Parent Forum for Scotland (NPFS) are delighted to launch a national Cost of the School Day toolkit resource for Parent Councils across Scotland. This toolkit was initially developed with the Glasgow Parent Council Forum, supported by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. NPFS has worked with parents in South Lanarkshire, Shetland and the Western Isles to add a national perspective to this work.

Insufficient household income can mean that some children and young people don’t have the resources needed for school and can’t easily afford to take part in school activities which cost money. Parent Councils have a key role to play in highlighting to schools how costs affect families and in working with the school to ensure that costs do not act as a barrier to children’s learning or participation.

This toolkit is designed to help Parent Councils:

  • review and audit current practices in their schools
  • consider the impact of costs on low income families in their schools
  • learn about simple actions taken by Parent Councils across Scotland which have reduced school costs and helped children and young people from low income households to participate fully at school


NPFS/CPAG Parent Council toolkit

'Dundee council sets up project to tackle hidden costs of going to school'

Click here to read the Dundee Evening Telegraph report on Cost of the School Day Dundee - 30 September, 2017

Dundee Evening Telegraph story on Cost of the School day

Join NHS Health Scotland’s Facing Up to Child Poverty in Schools Practice Network

Are you working to address the cost barriers of school for children and their families in your local authority area? NHS Health Scotland is establishing a Practice Network to provide opportunities for peer support, the exchange of good practice and national support around these issues.

In November 2016, NHS Health Scotland held an event Facing up to child poverty in schools – what can be done to reduce the cost barriers of school? to examNHS Health Scotland logoine the impact of child poverty in schools and identify steps to reduce the cost barriers and the effect of child poverty in schools. Stakeholders were invited from each Local Authority and Health Board in Scotland who could take the lead in considering and developing an approach to addressing cost barriers of school in their area. One of the next steps arising from the event was the establishment of a Practice Network.

The aim of the Practice Network is to provide a forum for local authority and partner representatives with a remit to progress action on addressing cost barriers of school in their local authority area and will share examples of actions taken locally to reduce these barriers for parents/carers and their children. Specifically, the forum will provide an opportunity for peer support, the exchange of good practice and national support.

There will be 2 face-to-face meetings in October 2017 and March 2018 and a virtual network in between.

Please contact if you are interested in taking part in the Practice Network.

School costs in the news

Uniform image - BBC Scotland report

BBC Scotland - School uniform grants still unequal - 11 August 2017 - Report on the continued disparity by local authority in the amount of school clothing grant which families can claim, the real cost of kitting a child out for school and the growing demand for school uniform banks.

The Sunday Herald - The true cost of going back to school - 13 August 2017 - As schools return for the new year, the Sunday Herald investigates the true cost of going back to school for families

Useful reports and articles

Child poverty in Scotland – what we know and what the public thinks An accessible booklet from the Scottish Government and Poverty Alliance, setting out what we know about child poverty in Scotland – what it is, how common it is, what life’s like for families in poverty, why children are in poverty and mismatches between what the public think living in poverty is like and its reality.

Face up to child poverty – EIS survey, session 2016/17 Report of the most recent survey of EIS members showing, from teacher’s perspectives, how increasing levels of poverty are affecting children’s school experiences. Comments from teachers about action they have taken in response are included in this appendix.

Money Matters: Does Money Affect Children's Outcomes? A Systematic Review An updated review from the London School of Economics of causal evidence on whether or not money itself matters for children’s development. The update provides further strong evidence of the link between money and children’s cognitive development, physical health and social and behavioural development.

Poverty and child health: views from the frontline Report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and Child Poverty Action Group, based on a survey of more than 250 paediatricians, on the effect which food insecurity, poor housing and worry, stress and stigma is increasingly having on children’s health.

Holiday hunger is a human rights issue – Scotland’s children have the right to food This piece from the office of Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People argues that holiday hunger and child poverty must be recognised as a significant children’s rights issue in Scotland.