NASUWT condemns the ‘tax on learning’

Commenting on the report by the Children’s Commission on Poverty on the number of families struggling to afford the costs associated with sending their children to school, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, said:

“This report confirms the findings of the research the NASUWT has been conducting each year since 2011, through surveys of parents and carers.

“The reality is that access to basic educational opportunities, which should be entitlements for all, is increasingly based on parents’ ability to pay.

“The NASUWT’s latest survey of parents has found significant year-on-year increases in the costs faced by parents for school uniforms, equipment, school meals and educational visits.

“Parents report the expectation in some schools that they will make significant financial donations to the school, pay for basic equipment such as paper and pens and enter into expensive monthly payments, which they can ill afford, for equipment such as ipads.

“Too many parents feel under immense pressure to meet these costs, at a time when they are already struggling to make ends meet. They feel guilty and distressed if they cannot meet the costs and worry about their child being isolated, bullied and stigmatised.

“Parents are facing an unacceptable tax on learning, which is hitting the poorest families the hardest.

“It is nothing short of scandalous that 3.7 million children are now living in poverty in the UK, many of them from working families, and the figure is rising.

“This is a shameful indictment of current education, social and economic policies.

“No child’s life should be degraded or derailed by poverty.

“The NASUWT has called for a Parliamentary Select Committee enquiry into the cost of education, as it is now increasingly clear that a basic principle of our great public services, that they should be free at the point of use, is being seriously compromised.” 

Notes to editors

The NASUWT’s financial hardship survey, which questioned teachers on the impact of family financial pressures on the pupils they teach, found that:
80% said pupils are lacking energy and concentration as a result of eating poorly;
82% said pupils were arriving to school in clothes inappropriate for the weather conditions;
53% said they had witnessed pupils missing out on important educational activities due to lack of money to pay for them.

The NASUWT Cost of Education survey 2014, which questioned parents and carers about the costs associated with sending their children to school found:
Two thirds of parents said that uniform had to be purchased from a particular supplier, compared to 57% in 2012. This option usually tends to be more expensive for parents. Nearly half (48%) had to purchase PE kit from a specific supplier.
84% of parents said they were required to pay for pens and pencils, a quarter for paper and over a third for textbooks. Nearly three quarters were required to pay for materials for practical lessons such as art and cookery;
14% of parents said their at least one of their children had been unable to participate in trips due to cost.

Lena Davies
Press and Media Officer
0121 457 6250 / 07867 392746