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More than half of parents worried by school costs, survey finds

A PTA UK poll found just over half of the 1,500 parents questioned said they are concerned about the cost of sending children to school.

Parents are concerned about the rising cost of sending their child to a state school, with many worried about increasing prices of uniforms, dinners and trips, according to a survey.

It also indicates mothers and fathers are increasingly contributing towards the running of their youngster’s school, with some helping with maintenance, such as redecorating classrooms, or supplying essentials such as toilet paper.

Overall, the PTA UK poll found just over half (55%) of the 1,500 parents questioned said they are concerned about the cost of sending children to school.

A survey conducted by the charity last year found 47% of mothers and fathers were concerned about this. Almost eight in 10 (78%) of those surveyed this year agreed the cost of sending youngsters to school is increasing, compared to 72% last year.

Half of those polled this year said they are concerned about the price of school trips, making it the top cost parents are anxious about, followed by uniform (48%), school meals (23%), technology, such as computers and internet access (22%) and the cost of materials for classes such as music, art and PE (20%).

The survey also found about a third (34%) of parents say they have donated to their child’s school fund this year, compared to 29% who said the same last year. About one in four (26%) said they give between £10 and £30 a month while 50% said they give less than £10 a month.

The findings come amid continuing concerns from school leaders about a squeeze on budgets. Education Secretary Justine Greening has announced an extra £1.3 billion will be found for schools from existing budgets, although some unions have suggested this will not be enough to plug funding gaps.

The survey asked parents about any cost-cutting measures their child’s school has implemented to address funding shortfalls. Some 15% said class sizes had been increased while the same proportion said the number of teaching assistants had been cut and that parents had been asked to supply equipment such as stationery and books.

Around 13% said their child’s school had implemented a scheme of parents paying a regular monthly or annual contribution to the school fund while the same proportion said parents had been asked to help with maintenance activities such as redecorating classrooms and cutting grass.

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Education Secretary Justine Greening (Ben Birchall/PA)

Just over one in 10 (11%) said subjects had been dropped and the same percentage said the number of supply teachers had been cut. Around 10% said schools had cut back equipment like computers and the same proportion said money had been used from the PTA fund to support the school’s core budget.

A total of 8% said the length of the school day had been reduced, 8% said teachers’ training had been cut and 7% said parents had been asked to supply essentials such as toilet paper. Around 5% said their school had reduced the school week to four days.

PTA UK acting chief executive Michelle Doyle Wildman said: “Parents have always contributed to schools, whether that’s through voluntary contributions, via their PTA or by volunteering their time or skills, and this looks likely to continue.

“Their support helps give every child the best possible educational experience and so it’s important parents have a say in what goes on in their child’s school. Parents are reporting that they are contributing more to provide the essentials which many expect to be provided by the state.

“If this is a growing trend, then it’s crucial that schools work in partnership with parents to address their specific concerns, taking their views into account when prioritising difficult funding decisions and exploring realistic alternatives with them, not in isolation.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “No parent is required to make a contribution to their child’s education.

“The rules are clear on this and no policies have been introduced by this government to allow schools to charge for education provided during school hours, and this includes the supply of any materials or equipment.”

:: The poll questioned 1,507 UK parents.

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