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Back-to-school: free education doesn’t come cheap

VCOSS MEDIA RELEASE

While thousands of children in Victoria get ready to start or return to school next week, many parents and carers who are already feeling financial strain are left trying to balance a stretched budget, thanks to back-to-school costs.

VCOSS Acting CEO Mary Sayers said that while the standard education curriculum is provided free in Victoria, the list of school-related expenses doesn’t stop growing.

“Sending your child to a government primary or secondary school in Melbourne now costs more than $3,400 or $5,100 respectively, each year.

“The cost of textbooks, stationery, school uniforms, sports days, elective subjects, camps and excursions quickly adds up.

“And as technology becomes a must-have at many schools, ‘bring your own’ policies are leaving parents with no choice but to purchase digital devices such as tablets or laptops, along with the required apps or software,” said Ms Sayers.

VCOSS said while some support exists for families experiencing disadvantage, including the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund and State Schools’ Relief, this doesn’t ease the back-to-school financial stress for many.

“Unfortunately for those families who cannot meet the costs, their children are at risk of being excluded from the standard school curriculum and missing out on opportunities to fully participate in school.”

VCOSS is calling on the Victorian Government to properly calculate the cost of education for each year level.

“By understanding the real cost of for each year, the government will be able to adequately fund schools, and ensure state education is truly free for all Victorian children and young people.

“The government can also help state schools to better understand and apply the Parent Payment Policy, and develop a Financial Hardship Policy to be used as a minimum standard to help better support families who are already doing it tough.

“Children deserve the best shot at a good life, and if the government can make these changes, it will go a long way to putting children on a positive path.

“By investing in our future generations, and making sure children and young people have access to free education, we can ensure they’re provided with the skills, tools and confidence to pursue opportunities and reach their full potential,” said Ms Sayers.

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