The rising use of technology in the classroom and an increasingly competitive school system is adding significant costs to families’ back-to-school budgets, says the Victorian Council of Social Service.
VCOSS says many parents will face hundreds of dollars in additional back-to-school costs this year due to items such as iPads and blazers becoming increasingly common in schools across the state.
CEO Emma King says more support is needed for families facing disadvantage, to ensure Victorian schoolchildren do not face barriers to accessing a quality education. VCOSS is calling for a strengthened statewide Parent Payment Policy and the development of a Financial Hardship Policy for schools.
“More and more schools are now asking parents to purchase personal iPads for their children to use in the classroom, which can cost families between $500 to $1000, significantly increasing families’ back-to school costs,” Emma King said.
“Along with this, many more secondary schools have begun to make items such as school blazers, which can cost around $250, part of their uniform.
“With these among the rising school costs parents are facing, many families across the state will be wondering how they will cover these extra costs. For families facing disadvantage or poverty, these costs can be insurmountable, and more support is needed.”
The Andrews Government has established an independent review of parent payment policies.
“The parent payment policies 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,” Emma King said.
“This would help reduce confusion and inconsistency in the items schools can require families to pay for.”
VCOSS has welcomed the Andrews Government’s strong commitments towards equity funding, along with its Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund and increased funding for the State Schools’ Relief program, all aimed to support families facing disadvantage and ensure every child can participate fully in education across the school system.
“Strengthening the Parent Payment Policy and developing a Financial Hardship Policy to be used as a minimum standard for all Victorian state schools will also help better support families facing disadvantage,” Emma King said.
In 2015 the Victorian Auditor-General’s Additional School Costs for Families report found that parent payments vary significantly from school to school, and in some cases parents are being charged for items that should be free.
“We need to keep doing all we can to ensure that every child in Victoria is supported to access a quality education, particularly those facing disadvantage or poverty,” Emma King said.