Counting the cost of school

A pile of pound coins.

Something has been bothering me for a while. Since last summer, in fact, so it’s high time I got it off my chest. I’m fed up of the extra – and not wholly necessary – ways that Dylan’s school seems to find to get extra money out of us.

Before I launch into this rant about the cost of school, I feel I should qualify my position by pointing out that I’m not a Scrooge. I come from a family of teachers and grew up well aware of the difficulties faced by schools as far as funding is concerned. I have a number of friends who are teachers too, so have remained sympathetic to the need to pay for essentials, but I believe that there should be a happy medium between fundraising and maintaining a good relationship with parents.

When we first went to buy Dylan’s uniform, we were told that he must have a bag with the school logo on. It cost a tenner, which was twice as much as one with a well-known cartoon character on that we bought Xander for pre school. I was annoyed on the first day when I realised that half of the kids had normal bags. Then came the PE kit. Bearing in mind that, in reception year, kids spend most of the lesson getting into their kit and then back into their uniforms again, I assumed that a plain T-shirt would be fine. Silly me! Again, we had to buy one with the school logo on it which cost the same as a pack of three plain ones. A theme was beginning to emerge…

Cut to Christmas, the time of good will and tight budgets. To send cards to his friends via the school postbox, he needed stamps. They had been created by some of the older kids as part of a design project – and they were brilliant, by the way – so props to the school for that, but did they really need to charge parents for them?

Recently, we were invited to an event in which the main hall had been turned into an art gallery. All of the kids had done paintings which had been ‘professionally framed’. We got an email which tugged on the heartstrings – and the purse strings – leaving us feeling like utter bastards for the mere fleeting thought of not buying his painting. Which cost £8.50. For the record, I’ve bought frames like it for a third of the price. And don’t even get me started on the fucking glow sticks at the infant school disco…

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re really pleased he’s at such a good school. They’re innovative and offer a nurturing environment that encourages creativity and he absolutely loves it. We don’t mind paying for everything he actually needs and dutifully attend all of the normal fundraising events and put our hands in our pockets without question. But it sometimes feels like they’re taking advantage and I don’t think it’s fair on parents. If this had all taken place last year while I was out of a job, we simply wouldn’t have been able to afford it all and I would have felt absolutely awful for not giving him all the same opportunities as his classmates.

Is it just me, or are expenses like these overstepping the mark? What are your experiences of schools and fundraising?


  1. Sarah

    Yeah, we had the gallery of framed artwork too. A tenner a go and two children’s masterpieces. But I am a hard-arse and didn’t buy them. I explained to my kids that we can’t simply keep paying out for things and, lovely as their artwork was, they had some equally beautiful pieces on our fridge at home and we would rather spend that money on perhaps a family outing or a treat (or not at all – shush!).

    It does really bug me when they have to have logo stuff. I can understand some items, but white polo shirts and the like are taking it too far. My kids spill down them and stain them regularly and I resent paying £8 for a replacement when, like you say, you can get a pack of three for half the price.

    Yep, I’m with you on this one, Tom! (and I’m a teacher!)

  2. Dominic Cope

    Those damn glow sticks indeed! Every time they’re there, and every time because someone else has them then we need them too!!

    But seriously, totally understand the point you’re making here bud. It’s especially frustrating that when you’re told you’re required to buy a certain product with a logo on it, and then only half of the kids actually have them.

  3. Tim

    I know exactly where you’re coming from. There is a wealth of hidden cost in putting kids through school, and it can be tough on those who can ill afford the additional expenditure.

    Having said that, I do also have sympathy for schools, who desperately need to bolster their woefully tight budgets. It’s a difficult line to walk – they do need the money but it’s also easy to make it seem like parents are being fleeced at every possible opportunity.

    Of course, the real underlying issue is the way education budgets have been systematically cut in real terms over a period of decades while the adminstrative workload on teaching staff has increased. In the meantime, it’s us parents who have to foot the bill.

  4. Jonathan

    I sympathise with the school’s need to raise money but don’t like the sound of their methods, some of which feel a bit manipulative to me. Maybe this will be something I’ll encounter in a few years.

  5. Christine

    Wait until you reach secondary school. Our daughter is going on a 3 night trip to Northern France (battlefields) in July and it’s costing £400! That’s near enough the cost of a week long self catering break for us. #pocolo

  6. Verily Victoria Vocalises

    I have to say that I really agree with you on this. Every term we get asked to send £2 and a box of tissues – for no apparent reason. There is regularly extras here and there AND recently all the children of single parent families got given a chromebook!! I was really angry. Great post. thank you for linking to #PoCoLo 🙂

  7. Loving life with little ones

    While we haven’t had to buy other than uniform for school I am a bit annoyed at the cost of school trips, while I like the fact that my daughter gets to go on them they wanted £13.00 for one in feb and have just sent a letter for another one a month later for £15.00 at a farm park near us that only costs £8 to get in, okay I get that we need to pay for the coach but they also want a bit towards a tractor ride and animal theatre, I only have 1 child at school at the moment but it is going to get rather expensive when they are all there. #pocolo

  8. Adventures of a Novice Mum

    Very interesting … I’m a teacher, and it’s really interesting reading about this issue from a parent’s perspective. It’s somewhat different in secondary schools but there are similarities.

    If I ever have responsibility for sorting out funding related things, like school uniform, I’ll make sure that I consider the cost of comparable non-branded items.

    My personal experience has been in the area of trips, and we charge for the cost; but there’s always the concern about students not missing out because they can’t afford it.

    I think schools will do well to take parents’ views into consideration in this area; parent / school relationship is too important to be soured by funding needs.

  9. Pingback: I've reached financial maturity. Again | Budgeting | Diary of the Dad

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