More than two thirds of parents have struggled with the cost of school, with half cutting back spending on clothing, food or heating, according to a new report.
The research – led by a panel of children – also found that a quarter of parents had borrowed money in order to afford the cost of education.
The report, from the Children’s Commission on Poverty, found that parents spend an average of £800 each year per child on school costs, with many struggling as a result.
Of this, school uniforms alone cost an average of £118 per child a year on school uniform, the Commission said, with sports kit costing an additional £41.
The Commission was launched in October of last year, and consists of 16 children between the ages of 10 and 19, who over 18-months are investigating child poverty in the UK, supported by The Children’s Society.
Findings were based on a survey of 2,000 households, as well as interviews with children and parents from low-income families. Written evidence was also collected from teachers, governors, unions and charities.
Based on their findings, the report – ‘At What Cost? Exposing the impact of poverty on school life’ – calls on the government to make sure that all children living in poverty get a free school meal and that uniforms are made affordable.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said that the government needed to do more to ensure that children were not “penalised” because of their family’s financial position.
Mr Reed said: “Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not right.
“The government needs to listen to this crucial report by young commissioners and act to make sure no child is stopped from getting an education equal to their peers. It must stop children from being made to suffer because they are living in poverty.”
The Commission looked at the cost of schools in four areas: school uniforms; school meals; materials; and the impact on children.
Lack of access to the internet or to a computer was also identified as a problem for children in poverty, with one in three children from the poorest families saying they had fallen behind at school as a result.
Commenting on the report, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT said: “The evidence shows that poverty itself is a barrier to learning. There is widespread political agreement that more needs to be done. We believe that if governments are serious about improving outcomes for children, we must start early.
“Last week’s announcement on the introduction of an Early Years Pupil Premium was an important step forward. But at £300, it is one thousand pounds lower than the pupil premium for school starters. We would like to see an ongoing review about levels of funding and further action taken if evidence suggests it is necessary.”