Back-to-school costs pinch parents

Back-to-school costs pinch parents

Saturday, January 28, 2017

By Anna Whyte

Uniforms, stationery, extra activities add to bill, family stress

A CHARITY that supports needy children in the Bay says an increasing number of parents are struggling to cover back-to-school costs.

The new school year starts next week and KidsCan chief executive and co-founder Julie Chapman says the increasing costs of stationery, uniforms and extracurricular activities are a growing concern.

KidsCan supported 17 schools in the Western Bay of Plenty, providing food, raincoats and shoes.

"The charity is seeing a constant increase in the need for the support it provides to children living with hardship," Ms Chapman said.

"Four years ago the average number of children needing food support from KidsCan in lower decile schools was around 15 per cent, but has since risen to almost 25 per cent." Students are also aware of back-to-school costs.

Kaylee Simpson-White, 10, knows about the high cost of her extra-curricular activities.

"My cheerleading uniform is $250 and a term is $250. And it's $20 for the bow. It all . . . costs money." Student Joseph Naehana-Simpson, 11, said he believed it could be a difficult time of the year for parents to cover the costs associated with returning to school.

"Everyone wants to catch up with the latest trend. They want to catch up with all their other friends so then they'll fit in. The thing is they don't need to fit in, they can be their own individual person." Both children said they thought the cost of schooling would rise as they got older.

Parent Fiona Bishell said back-to-school costs were "definitely" getting higher.

"It's all the activities, the sports, the arts. It's a lot more now." Tauranga Budget Advice manager Diane Bruin told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend this month that school costs have continued to rise.

"What is difficult is to have a talented individual at sport or academic who can't be supported in opportunities due to the cost.

"Some families can't afford uniforms and then the children are shamed and won't attend school." Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti said the school kept costs as low as it possibly could.

"We've had parents contact us about intermediate school costs and we work with those parents to get second-hand uniforms, and we've had a wonderful response from the community at large last year." Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said schools did their "utmost to minimise costs to parents. No school will deliberately impose costs on parents unless there are sound educational reasons for doing that.

"The funding that comes into school hasn't kept pace with the requirements to provide quality education to students as well.

"Neither government has met the ongoing increasing costs of providing quality education." He said the school had welfare systems which supported people through financial hardship.

"We wouldn't want to deny any student access to opportunities." Brookfield School principal Robert Hyndman suggested parents start the school year with the basic uniform requirements: shorts/skirts, a shirt and a hat.

"Then they can build it up from there." Earlier this week a new report showed the education of a child born in 2017 was expected to cost $38,362, a figure worrying educators and parents.

The Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) Planning and Index said the figure, which covered 13 years of public education for a New Zealand child, had increased by 15 per cent since 2007.

By the numbers

Eighty-eight per cent of Kiwis experienced stress by uniform costs, with 35 per cent experiencing "significant stress", according to research by PureProfile on behalf of Postie Plus.

The online survey was completed by 500 parents in December 2016.

The research found 22 per cent of families sacrificed basic necessities such as food, electricity, and clothing, to cater for backto-school needs.

About 650 parents were also surveyed online by The Warehouse Group in March 2016, with an increase in those finding it to be financially harder, according to Warehouse Stationery chief executive Pejman Okhovat.

"Things like digital devices, which are becoming more popular as part of student's education, can be an additional cost many families struggle to cover," Mr Okhovat said.

From the survey, 45 per cent said the back-to-school period was the most costly time of year, and 41 per cent said it was the biggest financial burden they faced, a 28 per cent increase on the 2015 survey.

Cost of high school uniforms for juniors
Cost doesn't include shoes or sandals, school socks, hats and P.E. uniforms. Only one shirt/polo/blouse has been included in the calculations.

Lowest new prices have been used. Most schools have second-hand uniforms available to purchase at cheaper prices.