A PROJECT pioneered in Scotland to help reduce the costs associated with going to school is being adopted in other areas of the UK.

The initiative by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), is aimed at highlighting the difficulties some households face in affording uniforms, trips, lunches and stationery.

While schools often want to offer the opportunity for pupils to take part in experiences such as charity days and dress-down day, CPAG says these can be a source of anxiety and financial pressure.

The project was started in Glasgow and Dundee, and is now rolled out across Scotland as well as in schools in Coventry, London and two local authorities in Wales.

It will be highlighted as an example of the work CPAG carries out for a fundraising appeal for the charity which is being launched on BBC Radio 4 today by Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci.

READ MORE: Poverty action from Scottish Government 'stark contrast' to UK Government, charities say

Sara Spencer, project manager for Cost of the School Day at CPAG in Scotland, said: “We have got a quarter of children living in poverty at the moment in Scotland, that is just going to become a lot more difficult because of the cost of living crisis.

“If you speak to teachers they have got hungry children in their schools, with children whose families are having to use food banks.

“Schools are really keen to not be putting more financial pressures on families than there are already.

“School costs are never going to be the biggest costs families face, but they can still add pressure, so it is about acknowledging that and removing them where possible.”

She added: “It is also about making sure children and young people are able to go to school and not worry about all of this.

“It is about taking a bit of the stigma away from them and just being able to participate in the same way as everyone else.”

Parents who have taken part in the project, which is supported through the Scottish Government’s Scottish Attainment Challenge north of the border, have spoken of the pressure over costs associated with school activities.

One parent said: “I broke down in tears in the office of the head teacher as my child was bullied as we couldn’t afford the trip to New York and head teacher claimed she never came across this issue before.”

Some highlight how costs can build up with events like Christmas Jumper Day, Red Nose Days, dress down days and book fairs, particularly if there is more than one child in the family.

“Was asked for nearly £200 for camp and ski lessons. This is just for one of my children. Older child at high school – they asked for £550 for his trip for his French class,” one said.

“It’s heartbreaking when you get these emails from school. It just makes me cry.”

And CPAG highlights it is not just families who are not working who struggle to make ends meet.

“I don’t qualify for any benefits or anything free. I work enough hours and earn enough apparently to pay for everything, but times are hard when paying for the family home, food, childcare and general child costs,” one parent said.

Spencer said the idea was not to assume what the issues are, but to ask the school community what the challenges were and help come up with solutions.

She said: “School uniform can be one of the biggest costs for families.

“Sometimes children end up not having the uniform they need, and that can be a source of stigma and difficulty at school when you talk to children or to parents and carers.

“There are lots of different approaches you can take with that – looking at uniform policies is a really good start, is the uniform from an exclusive supplier that costs more?

“What are the colours like, do you need a logo, are you asking for a blazer, is that necessary?

“So thinking through the policy and what you are actually asking families for and trying to make it as affordable and accessible as possible.”

She added: “It’s also looking at financial entitlements – what CPAG wants more widely is for all families to have the money they need to be able to buy what their family needs.

“Along with looking at uniform policy you might look at the school clothing grant and making sure families are getting that.

“There are loads of really nice examples of pre-loved uniform banks that are run by children and young people themselves and parents.

“There are lots of different ways to deal with the barriers that are identified.”

Spencer said the project was important at a time when many families are facing increasing pressure due to the cost of living crisis.

She added: “We often hear from parents there is a lot of fear of stigma and judgement, there is a lot of hidden poverty.

“So many families are facing financial difficulties now after Covid and so many more will be with the cost of living crisis. It’s not an issue that we can sweep under the carpet anywhere.

“This is a really broad approach, it’s about asking everyone in the school their opinions and not a stigmatising approach where you ask people to identify themselves as low income.”