News

Back-to-school costs now beyond many

By Seymour Telegraph

The rising cost of sending children to school is putting pressure on many families.

The rise in back-to-school costs has become a drain on household budgets, especially once things like new school uniforms and books are added.

Figures from the Australia Bureau of Statistics show that parents are forking out 44 per cent more per week on their children’s education than they were six years ago.

The national average is $44 per week but in Victoria it has crept up to $49.

In 1984, parent spent a mere $3.30 per week and in 1999 the cost was $12.87.

Victorian parents in regional areas can expect to spend on average $47224 to send their child to a government school from prep to year 12 according to data from the Australian Scholarship Group.

Good Shepherd Microfinance chief executive officer Peter McNamara said these days there was no such thing as a free education.

‘‘The expectation that students bring their own device, like a laptop or tablet, is just an impossible expense for many families,’’ Mr McNamara said.

‘‘Then you add uniforms, books, excursions, music or sport; parents have to find hundreds, if not thousands of dollars before their child even starts the new school year.

‘‘That can make it desperately difficult for people on low incomes to afford their normal bills, like food and power.’’

The Smith Family also ran a survey which came to similar conclusions.

The children’s education charity surveyed more than 1000 people and found that 64 per cent of those questioned said education costs were becoming increasingly unaffordable.

Eighty-four per cent of the people surveyed said they didn’t want to see their children missing out on education opportunities because of money concerns and 74 per cent said they felt struggling families should be given more assistance for things like books, uniforms and school excursions to ensure children weren’t at a disadvantage.

The Smith Family’s general manager Anton Leschen said the return to school was the charity’s busiest time as families reached out for help.

‘‘The new year can be a stressful time for low-income families. With children starting back at school, the costs can really add up,’’ Mr Leschen said.

‘‘No parent wants their child to start the school year feeling isolated from their peers because they don’t have a decent uniform, school bag or shoes. They don’t want their kids feeling left out from school activities because they can’t afford sport or excursions.’’

Mr Leschen also raised the issue of schools moving to more technology-driven education and that students now need a computer or tablet with access to the internet.

‘‘These days, parents also have to factor in the costs of technology for their children’s education — things like laptops and internet access. For many families these can be quite unaffordable,’’ he said.

‘‘We know, for example, that nearly a third of the students on our sponsorship program don’t have a computer at home that’s connected to the internet. We hear of students struggling to keep up at school because they don’t have the tools they need to study or get their homework done.’’

The Smith Family offers a sponsorship program for disadvantaged children in Australia.

To sponsor a disadvantaged Australian child and support their education, visit thesmithfamily.com.au/sponsor