Parents shell out £1,000 to send each child to school - calculate how much you spend
Parents in Northern Ireland spend more than £1,000 each year on their child's education, figures show.
The cost includes essentials such as school uniforms, PE kits, meals and transport.
In some cases parents are being forced into debt to meet the huge costs. The shocking figures emerge as families prepare for the new school term.
The children's commissioner has called for an urgent review of school uniform policies to ease the burden on parents.
The study commissioned by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People shows parents spend on average £1,222 each year on the likes of uniform, PE kit, transport, meals, 'voluntary' contributions, trips and after-school activities.
Meals accounted for over half the outlay while transport (15%) and uniform costs (9%) also factored.
On average a uniform cost £109, but it was closer to £200 for those attending a grammar.
PE kit worked out an average £54 - at a grammar it was again double.
Over half of parents said they had to source uniform and kit from a specified supplier.
A third said they worried about mounting costs while one in five said they had to go without other things to make ends meet.
Some were in debt because of the bills while a small number (2%) said they were forced to use pay-day loans.
Researchers interviewed 1,006 parents in March and May this year to get a representative sample.
They found £421 was spent on pre-school children on average, £1,004 on primary school children and, £1,611 on children attending secondary schools.
Those living in the west of Northern Ireland faced the biggest costs.
For those that paid for school trips they forked out an average £250, with some 20,000 children estimated to forgo an excursion because their parents could not afford it.
Children's commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said parents should not have to get into debt in order to send their child to school. "Children in Northern Ireland are not enjoying their right to a free education," she said.
"Financial support for parents on low incomes only applies to a small proportion of these costs and does not even begin to plug the gaps.
"It is unacceptable parents are getting into debt to pay for essential education costs, going without or considering cost when choosing to send their child to a certain school or on an educational trip.
"This situation should not be tolerated and schools, along with the Education Authority and the Department of Education, must act so that disadvantage stops at the school gate and every child's experience of education is equal."
The commissioner said that cutting administration costs could help redirect money toward teaching.