Children from low income families risk being bullied at school or falling behind with their work because their parents cannot afford school trips or the proper school uniform, experts have warned.
A coalition of leading charities has joined forces with the National Union of Teachers to demand the government make it obligatory for all local education authorities to provide uniform grants.
They added that the Department for Education and Skills would need to make money available for this, and should also fund “activity funds” for schools to ensure activities and school trips were open to all children.
Launching a new campaign to ensure that no child misses out at school because of the “hidden costs” involved, the coalition said children from low income families risked being isolated, stigmatised and bullied at school, as well as falling behind with their schools work, if they could not participate on an equal footing.
Government research suggests that parents spend an average of almost £600 per year on a child’s “free” education while they are at primary school, and £1,000 per year once they reach secondary school.
Citizens Advice chief executive David Harker said: “Every child should be able to take part fully in school life, but not having the money to buy the correct uniform, join in activities outside the classroom, or go on school trips can mark children out as being poor and lead to them becoming isolated within schools. It may also leave them unable to fulfil their learning potential.”
Director of the End Child Poverty Campaign Jonathan Stearn added: “A co-ordinated response from government, local authorities, schools and parents is now needed to ensure all children can take up the opportunities that school offers. It is vital that the government acts now to ensure that poverty stops at the school gate.”