A lesson in school support costs


Parents and guardians are feeling the pinch as children have returned to school after being forced to fork out more than they think is reasonable for uniform costs.

According to research from The Children’s Society parents with children in state schools spend on average £315 per year for each primary school child and £337 on uniform per secondary school child every year.

This is more than three times what parents believe is a reasonable cost with parents of pint-sized scholars prepared to pay £85 for a uniform and £105 for older secondary pupils.

And with the end of furlough, an energy price hike and a £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit looming, more parents are seeking financial support than before.

However, there is support available to help parents and guardians manage schooling costs beyond that of a new uniform.

Here we highlight the support available to Scottish households.


Who can get financial help and where can you find it?

If you are a parent or a person with parental responsibilities for a child you could be entitled to financial help, depending on your circumstances.

Your local authority’s education department is responsible for providing certain kinds of financial help for families in specific circumstances. However, other kinds of help are discretionary and depend on local policy.

You should be able to find information about the support offered by local authorities on their websites, including information about:

  • help with the cost and provision of school meals and mil
  • help with the cost and provision of school transport
  • higher school bursaries
  • other grants

It’s important to check if you’re able to access benefits from other organisations such as the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Social Security Scotland or charity support.

Free school meals

While it’s the responsibility of education authorities to provide a place for children to eat, not every child is entitled to free meals.

All children in primaries one to five are entitled to free school meals, however, older pupils may only be eligible if you receive certain benefits or are facing financial hardship.

In order for your child to receive free school meals from August 1, 2021 you must get one of the following:

  • Universal Credit (where your monthly earned income is not more than £625)
  • Income Support
  • income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
  • income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Your child is also entitled to free school lunches if you get:

  • Child Tax Credit, but not Working Tax Credit, and your income is less than £16,105
  • both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and have an income of up to £7,500

You can find out more about applying for free school meals here.


School uniforms

If you’re on a low income you could also be able to access support to cover the cost of school clothing.

Eligibility for clothing grants can vary depending on your local authority but everyone who gets a school clothing grant will get at least:

  • £120 for each primary pupil
  • £150 for each secondary pupil

You get one school clothing grand payment each year and councils usually make most payments in July and August before the school year starts. However, this can vary between local authorities.

While it may be too late to apply for support for this school term it’s important to be aware of the support could be eligible for and be prepared for next year.

Even if you have received a grant for this year, it may not cover all the costs of school clothing.

If you’re worried about being able to afford additional items, you may be able to access School Clothing Banks or charities that help low-income families with school costs.


School transport

For those who don’t live close to their child’s school, transport costs can also be an issue.

Again, support varies depending on what’s offered by your council, with some local authorities being more generous than others. However, typically free transport is provided to pupils who:

  • are unable to walk to school due to illness or disability
  • live beyond walking distance (more than two miles for pupils under the age of 8 more than three miles for pupils aged 8 or over)
  • live within walking distance but couldn’t be expected to get to school without the ai of free transport.

The type of free transport offered can also vary. Services offered can range from council-run buses to giving kids free passes for public transport.

Young people between 16 and 18 can also make the most of reduced fares on trains, buses and ferries across the country with a National Entitlement Card.

You should check what help is available in your area on your local authority website.


If you’re worried about more than just school costs and are looking for support with your debt, talk to Carrington Dean. Our expert advisors give confidential advice to help you manage what you owe with one affordable monthly payment.


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