The hidden costs of the school day for Dundee families have been laid bare in a new report.
Dundee City Council recruited the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) charity to carry out a study on what could be done to reduce financial pressures on hard-up families.
School uniforms, travel costs and even the hiring of musical instruments, are all proving to be economic barriers for kids.
The report is based on work with pupils, staff and family members in schools and nurseries across Dundee.
Pupils took part in two sessions which involved a case study featuring characters from low-income households. Kids were then asked to identify school costs which might create a barrier to participating in school.
Among the issues addressed were breakfast clubs, uniform, lunches and snacks, school trips, homework and attitudes to poverty.
The report found that uniform is one of the most expensive outlays for families, particularly replacing worn and torn clothes — and if families cannot afford to replace them, it can leave pupils embarrassed.
Some pupils are also coming into school unfed – and inconsistencies in breakfast clubs across the city means that there aren’t always spaces for children in need.
The timing of events, such as at Halloween and Christmas, was also leaving a dent in parents’ pockets, or leaving children excluded because their mums and dads can’t afford, for example, a Halloween costume.
The Child Poverty Action Group, which conducted a similar exercise in Glasgow: “There is still some way to go to ensure that all children and young people from low income households are able to access all of the same opportunities as their peers.”
One Dundee mum who knows how expensive it can be to send children to school is Sara Hay, 36, from Linlathen.
Sara has one child Brandon Davidson in P1 at Rowantree Primary School and her son Findlay will start after the summer. She said: “There’s no doubt sending your kids to school is expensive. By the time you buy uniforms, shoes, bags and even pay for dress-down days, it’s a lot of money.
“You often feel guilty because you maybe can’t afford to buy your children what others have, but it comes down to making the right choice.
“Rowantree Primary is very good. We have a support group that runs a swap-shop, which is a great help. I also get support from my family.”
Children and families service convener Councillor Gregor Murray said the report is a “hard-hitting” piece of research that raises a number of questions.
Councillor Murray added said: “We raised the school clothing grant in Dundee to £100 in recognition of the struggles that families were facing.
“Significant assistance from the Scottish Government has allowed us to make progress in narrowing the poverty attainment gap.
“This report about the cost of the school day gives us many issues to think over and solutions need to be carefully considered.”
The report highlights a number of examples of good practice to alleviate the economic barriers facing pupils.
One of these is Craigie High School, where new first-year pupils are all given a pencil case filled with stationery so every youngster starts on the same footing.
John Dickie, director of CPAG in Scotland, said: “Many Dundee schools and staff working in them are clearly sensitive to the fact that lots of families are struggling financially, and there is fantastic work happening across the city to keep school costs low and to support families where needed.
“But cost barriers still remain and are preventing too many children from getting the most out of their education.”