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High education costs hurt families

Reports that Victoria is the most expensive place in Australia to educate a child in a government school shows the need for clearer guidelines for schools and better support for families to manage the costs of education, says the Victorian Council of Social Service.

A report from the Australian Scholarship Group reveals that the forecast cost of a government education in Melbourne is $75,193 throughout their pre-school, primary and secondary schooling, 12 per cent above the national average. In regional Victoria the projected cost is $53,245.

In 2015 a Victorian Auditor General’s report found that school charges paid by parents vary significantly from school to school, and in some cases parents are being charged for items that should be free. The report found that parents were being charged for items such as ‘head lice checks’, a ‘first aid nurse’ and ‘grounds maintenance’, or used vague descriptions such as a ‘curriculum contribution’ or ‘classroom consumables’.

“The rising costs of education can prevent children and young people from participating fully in school life and learning, as struggling families are being asked to spend increasing amounts on their children’s schooling,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“Since coming to office the Andrews Government has moved to assist families with some education costs, including by establishing the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund and increasing funding to the State Schools’ Relief program which helps some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged families meet the costs of sending their children to school.”

“These are welcome measures that will help struggling families and keep young people engaged in education.”

“However, there remains a great deal of confusion about which items and activities schools can charge parents for. There is also limited information about the resources that are available to support families with the costs of education.”

“The Andrews Government has established an independent review of Parent Payment Policies. The Review should develop a ‘standard basket of education goods’, outlining the basic items required to provide free instruction to students at different levels of schooling. This would help reduce confusion and inconsistency in the items schools can require families to pay for.”

“Schools should be provided with greater guidance and support in assisting disadvantaged families. VCOSS believes that all schools should have a compliant parent payment policy and a financial hardship policy.”