Millions of families across the UK are struggling with the cost
of school with thousands of children being bullied and embarrassed
as a result, new child-led research by the Children's Commission on
Nearly two-thirds of children living in the country’s poorest
families say they are embarrassed as a result of not being able to
afford key aspects of school. More than 25% said this has led them
to being bullied.
More than three million — two thirds of all families across the
UK — say they are struggling with the cost of school. More than
half of the poorest families say they have had to borrow money to
pay for essential school items.
'At What Cost? Exposing the impact of poverty on school
The Children’s Commission on Poverty’s report, ‘At What Cost?
Exposing the impact of poverty on school life’, which was supported
by The Children’s Society, found that state education is far from
free. Families on average are spending £800 each year per child on
school costs — £6.5 billion across the UK.
The panel of 16 children aged 10 to 19, from across England, who
led the research, found that the cost of school basics like
uniforms, meals, text books and access to computers is not only
affecting family finances, but also undermining the poorest
children’s opportunities and wellbeing.
Despite Government guidance that the cost of school uniforms
should be kept down, the research found families are spending £600
million a year on them.
Children are also struggling with the cost of the increased
requirement to use computers. A third of children living in the
poorest families said they had fallen behind at school because
their family couldn’t afford the computer or internet
Call to action from young commissioners
Young commissioners are calling on the Government to make sure
that all children living in poverty get a free school meal and that
uniforms are made affordable. The Government’s guidance also needs
to be strengthened to make sure voluntary school costs really are
Cyrus, a young commissioner, aged 14, said: "As a young
commissioner the thing that has stood out is how poverty isn’t just
a physical problem, but has a mental effect on children. Children
are being treated differently if they are living in poverty. They
are made to stand out. They don’t have computers good enough to
download the software they need to do homework. Some have stickers
put on their books.
"If real change is to be made, schools need to be aware of
poverty and its effects on children so they can support the child
though the most important years of their life."
Comment from Children's Society Chief Executive
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
"Children are supposed to be benefiting equally from a free
education. Yet the reality is that UK families are paying billions
of pounds each year towards the cost of school. Children are being
penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply
because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not
"The Government needs to listen to this crucial report by young
commissioners and act to make sure no child is stopped from getting
an education equal to their peers. It must stop children from being
made to suffer because they are living in poverty."
Society press release (29 November 2014): Children suffer bulling
and embarrassment as families struggle with school costs (link
opens in a new window) and
The Guardian news article: Children's experiences of poverty in
schools (link opens in a new window)
How Turn2us can help you find help with education costs
Turn2us has various resources that can help you find help with
School costs: help from the local council
Depending on which local council in the UK you live in, there
may be help with costs including:
- Free school meals
- Travel to school
- School clothing
If you are a parent or a guardian of school age children, and
you are living on a low income, read the Turn2us Education Costs information
section to find out how to apply for help from the local
School meals from September 2014 (England)
Starting this September, certain students will be able to claim
free school meals.
- All pupils in infant state funded schools
- Disadvantaged students studying at sixth form and further
To find out more about the scheme, read
Gov.UK’s free school meal press release (link opens in a new
For anyone who is thinking about carrying on with their studies
and living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they may be
eligible to claim Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). The money
is paid to students aged 16 – 19 who live in a household on low
Although the EMA scheme in England is closed, many schools and
colleges have funds to award bursaries to people who need help.
Read the Turn2us Education Maintenance Allowance
Benefits and students
It can be complicated trying to navigate the different rules
relating to student benefit entitlement:
- Special rules apply to many benefits for students
- Full-time students are frequently excluded from certain
- The income students receive from grants, loans or bursaries can
be taken into account for means-tested benefits.
For an easy breakdown of the rules on benefits for students,
read the Turn2us Benefits and students information
Student grants and loans
Visit the Turn2us student grants and loans information
section for more details of how these work and how to
Turn2us Grants Search
The Turn2us Grants Search has information on financial
assistance and other support offered by over 3,000 grant-giving
charities. Many of the funds offer help to school age children and
students in further/higher education.
Some of the help includes grants to pay for equipment, books and
other items for students with disabilities or disadvantaged. Some
funds also help by covering certain fees.
Due to the length of the application for some charitable funds,
it’s important to apply as early as possible.
Also in the news
Department for Work and Pensions
Date of publication; 30 October 2014