The Cost of a Free Education

School’s out for Summer!

During the academic year of 2018-19, we spent £1313.45 on what is termed a free education. Don’t misunderstand me, we’re extremely grateful that our London borough can provide the sort of education that is best suited to The Boy Child. He’s had a terrific first year in secondary school. But, in the true sense of the word, it isn’t really free. Not once you’ve acquired a whole set of add-ons.

That sum of £1313.45 is made up of things like the cost of school uniform, the residential trip to the Isle of Wight, the suggested termly ‘donation’ to enable ingredients to be purchased for the food technology lessons, the charge for the weekly after-school club, sponsoring the deputy head when she ran the London Marathon and school lunches.

We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can afford all these extras, but I wonder how low-income families or single parent families manage, especially if there is more than one child.

What’s been the most expensive thing your child’s school has asked you to pay for?

What’s been the most ridiculous thing your child’s school has asked you to pay for?

8 thoughts on “The Cost of a Free Education

  1. You’re right, it can be that ‘free’ isn’t always free. Having worked in a school office I know that there is a growing number of children whose parents can’t cover those costs and there is a system in place for them. Free school meals is the most obvious one, but we re-designed the school uniform to make it cheaper and also made it available in more than one place so the prices weren’t fixed by one supplier. We also had a brisk trade in second hand uniform – you could kit your child out from head to toe for a very small amount of money and ex students were generous in donating those no longer needed uniforms. Whilst after school clubs could be pricey there was always the option of fun activities in the library which were free. Those on free school meals have their school trips subsidised so while I can’t speak for all schools, I know that ours did their absolute best to ensure that every child had the same opportunities. The ‘voluntary’ donations (known as the school fund) were fixed at £50 a child but anyone who chose not to contribute was never contacted. It’s such a shame that budgets are so tight now that everything cannot be covered but we always hoped that everyone had the same opportunities.
    I can’t think of anything ridiculous that we ever had to pay for but I do remember that some school trips were the equivalent of a week long family break in Center Parks during high season!

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    1. Your old school sounds very organised and mindful of its pupils and their families. At TBC’s last school, there was what was called a voluntary donation of £60 per term to the Governors’ Fund – if you didn’t pay it, you were sent an email reminding you to do so!

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  2. I am so pleased to hear that your son had a good first year at high school. The costs seem high. I too wonder how single parents manage to find the money. Or people on low income. The increase in food banks and food supply charities show how tight money is for some people. My sister’s boys go to a high school where school trips are Skiing in Canada or other expensive destinations, I don’t know if every child goes but the trips cost at least £1000 a time!

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    1. I have friends whose children have been skiing in Italy and even a safari in Botswana! Whatever happened to a day trip to York (or nearest city of historical interest) or the local museum?

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  3. While we have no schools like the one your son goes to here in Central New York the cost of a private or parochial school is easily 3 to 5 times what you paid. Those are just the up front cost like tuition and meals. After searching online the schools near me I found out they are more expensive than our local junior college. Also I agree free is never free someone pays either up front or in so many different ways.

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    1. The basic cost of my son’s education is free – the £1313,45 amounted to the ‘extras’. The cost of a private education in the UK can range from around £15,000 to £30,000 per academic year – lunches, outings and uniform all extra.

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