School: It’s uniformly expensive

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By RACHEL MACDONALD

The start of the school term is barrelling rapidly closer, bringing with it stationery and uniform costs, along with pending school fees or ‘voluntary donations’.

For many North Canterbury families, the eftpos cards took a beating over Christmas and the holidays.

Now, the start of the school term is barrelling rapidly closer, bringing with it stationery and uniform costs, along with pending school fees or “voluntary donations”.

Because, while the Education Act offers every New Zealand resident aged between 5 and 18 the right to a free education, even sending a child to the local state school is an expensive business, especially if it is their first year at high school.

Government funding for any school provides for delivery of only the most basic curriculum.

Schools, in trying to offer wider opportunities, more resources, and a broader experience in the classroom, rely on financial support from parents to do so.

Kaiapoi High School, for example, asks for a donation of $85 a year from families with one child at the school, or $125 from a family with two or more students enrolled.

Rangiora High starts with an annual donation of $140 for a single child or $250 if there are two or more students from one family, along with $10 for the Parent Teacher Association.

At Amuri Area School, the donation sought for one student is $40, with a maximum of $60 per family.

However, the bulk of a family’s back-to-school expenditure goes on uniforms, particularly when it comes to the parents of girls starting Year 9.

A little Year 1 lad or lass starting at Oxford Area School should be able to get kitted out with a new skirt or shorts, polo, and a sweatshirt (or the more expensive school fleece), all from The Warehouse, for less than $100. That said, it is often helpful at that age to have more than one pair of shorts and a couple of shirts.

Compare that to a daughter going into Year 9, where the single biggest investment in keeping her warm over winter is the school kilt.

For the high schools in North Canterbury, these retail at $200. At this age, her uniform for the year can be worth up to just a tad shy of $500, including just physical education gear, one summer skirt and blouse, and a winter shirt and cardigan (and not counting shoes and socks).

Her twin brother, in comparison, might get away with one pair of shorts, one polo shirt, winter trousers and a shirt, and his physical education kit, for around $240.

Hurunui College is currently in a transition year as it phases in a new uniform. It is therefore offering a $50 subsidy for families of Year 9-13 students, and a $30 helping hand for parents of Year -8 pupils, who find themselves in need of assistance.

Then there are pads, pens and exercise books to think of, along with specified workbooks for subjects such as high school geography and science, visual diaries for primary school art, and scientific calculators for older children.

The basic pack for high school can fall anywhere in the $100 to $200 zone. Add to that a tablet, Chromebook, or laptop for the many schools that are now part of the Bring Your Own Device movement, and the cost rockets up by anything from $500 to thousands.

Just to add the icing on the rather costly cake, there are also course costs, especially for subjects such as materials or food technology (once called woodworking and home economics), fees for school camps, and the cost of trips away for sports or music.

And that is on top of school bags and pencil cases, bus passes, and the optional school magazine. Nobody said state schooling in North Canterbury was cheap; it certainly isn’t free.