Why address the Cost of the School Day?
If we want to tackle poverty, every child from a low income household must be able to make the most of the school day.
Increasing numbers of families across Scotland are struggling financially. More than one in four (260,000) children are currently living in poverty and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecasts an increase of more than 50% in the proportion of children living in poverty in the UK by 2020/21.
Poverty has a ferocious and long lasting effect on children’s health, wellbeing and educational attainment. Mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing are essential for successful learning. However, food insecurity, housing problems and financial stress and worry all contribute to poorer health outcomes and children from low income households are more likely to report feeling useless and hopeless about their future.
In terms of qualifications, there remains a significant and persistent gap in attainment between children from lower and higher income families. Since attainment at school is so strongly linked to future employment prospects, education can represent a route out of poverty for many young people - however, coming from a low income household can affect how children access that education.
School costs which are difficult or impossible to meet can affect children’s participation at school and the shame surrounding poverty can mean that they feel excluded or embarrassed. Missing out on opportunities and feeling different makes it more difficult for children to learn, to achieve and to be happy at school.
“Well I think if all of your friends or people you know go to the after school clubs, school trips, that kind of isolates you from them. You're singled out, you're not with them, just a spare person.” (Boy, S5)
Strategies to narrow the poverty attainment gap will be less effective if the cost barriers which shape and limit children’s opportunities at school aren’t first addressed. Cost of the School Day helps you to identify and overcome these barriers.
Cost of the School Day involves children, parents and school staff in identifying cost barriers and in taking action to remove them. In local authorities which have adopted the Cost of the School Day approach, a range of changes have been made to help eliminate costs, ensure equal access to opportunities and reduce poverty related stigma and differences.
Figure 1: the strong direct relationship between higher rates of material deprivation and poorer child wellbeing. Featured in presentation by Dr Morag Treanor, The impacts of poverty on children's wellbeing and education.