7,000 Hartlepool families struggle to afford school costs

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ALMOST 7,000 Hartlepool families are struggling with the cost of sending their children to school - a report has revealed.

The Children’s Commission on Poverty says every year parents are forking out an average of £770 per child to meet the basic needs of their child’s schooling.

Backed by the Children’s Society, the report found 78 per cent of parents in the North-East are struggling to meet the costs of school clothing, sports kits, school meals, trips, books, materials for classes, stationery, computers for homework, travel to and from school and summer clubs or activities.

This is leading to many children missing out on key opportunities to make the most of their education and facing bullying and embarrassment.

Collectively Hartlepool parents are spending £10,061,597 on meeting school costs and 6,980 families in the town are struggling, according to the report.

The report published today by the Children’s Commission on Poverty, a panel of children from across England, found the costs are not only affecting family finances, but also harming the wellbeing of the poorest children.

It discovered more than half of the poorest families are borrowing money to pay for essential school items, almost two-thirds of children living in the poorest families are embarrassed as a result of not being able to afford key aspects of school and more than 25 per cent said this had led them to being bullied.

They also found that a third of children living in the poorest families had fallen behind at school because their family couldn’t afford the computer or internet facilities.

Despite government guidance that the cost of school uniforms should be kept down, the Commission found that families are spending £600m a year on them.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Children are supposed to be benefiting equally from a free education. Yet the reality is that families in the North East are paying millions of pounds each year towards the cost of school.

“Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not right.

“The Government needs to listen to this crucial report by young commissioners and act to make sure no child is stopped from getting an education equal to their peers. It must stop children from being made to suffer because they are living in poverty.”