By DR LISA O’BRIEN
Imagine your child is passionate about a particular subject at school.
You’ve never seen them so excited about learning before. Perhaps it’s the first time they’ve shown a talent in something academic?
Now imagine having to tell your child that he or she can’t take that class because you can’t afford the extra costs that go with it.
Or worse, hearing your child say: “It’s okay Mum, I didn’t want to do it anyway” – as they try to save your feelings because they know you don’t have the money.
Tragically, thousands of Australian families experience challenges like this every day.
We live in a country where we are blessed with an excellent public school system providing free and equal access to families of all backgrounds.
But The Smith Family has been hearing increasingly from financially stretched parents that the costs of attending government schools are becoming a barrier to a comprehensive education.
We’ve heard stories of schools advising children not to choose particular subjects because of the expense.
Of parents seeking personal loans and taking out new credit cards to pay for school-related costs.
Of children having to sit out excursions because families can’t find $30.
We decided to itemise the basic needs for children at government primary schools to try and arrive at a better understanding of the financial challenges facing families.
From what we found it’s no surprise so many low income families are struggling.
We estimate the real costs of attending a government primary school – from uniforms, shoes and stationery through to the charges that are part of daily attendance and study – are upwards of $2000 for one child over a year.
For a low income family, $2000 is a big ask.
Before a child even walks in the front gate the average parent is looking at spending more than $700 on uniforms, shoes and stationery – and that’s a conservative estimate based on the least expensive purchases at nationally accessible chain stores.
And once inside, and depending on whether the child goes to primary or high school, parents encounter a whole new raft of expenses.