Children are expensive. There is no getting around that as a parent. The average parent spends around £2,774 on a child each year (according to 2013 research by Quidco), and while no parent wants to deprive their children of the essentials, when it comes to paying for expensive extras like school trips or holidays, this can put some parents in a difficult position. It can potentially leave them unable to allow their child to participate in activities which are an important part of school life and social development.
It’s not only trips which can be a problem. Subjects like art, food technology and PE can all incur expensive additional costs, with parents having to supply extra kit and materials throughout the school year.
When it comes to helping parents cover these costs, there are a few lessons schools can certainly be taught themselves.
Communication is key
It’s important for schools to be sensitive and work hard to communicate with parents who may be struggling to manage additional costs. Providing an open door for parents will help establish ways around any financial obstacles and ensure children are not excluded from important aspects of school life.
Paying in installments
Parents can be put in a difficult situation when their child returns from school, asking whether they can go on a trip abroad or an expensive away day that is compulsory. It immediately puts parents in an impossible position: either pay the exorbitant figure or face telling their child they can’t do something.
Implementing systems which enable parents to pay in instalments or part-payments allows them to spread the cost over a certain time period which in turn will ease the financial burden. Providing this option gives parents both flexibility and comfort, knowing their child won’t be missing out.
Giving parents an option
Despite an increasingly digital age, there are still some people without credit or debit cards or bank accounts. This is often forgotten, so it’s important for school payment systems to be as inclusive as possible. Giving parents an alternative way to pay for online services by, for example, using cash can solve this issue, meaning you aren’t alienating anyone.
Whatever system schools decide to use, they must take an inclusive attitude towards parents and their various financial situations in the same way that schools are inclusive towards students’ individual needs.
Paying for school trips that were initially discussed months ago can sometimes be forgotten, so setting up automatic alerts for both one-off and regular payments can be sent to parents in advance, reminding them when a fee is due. These reminders will give parents time to sort out payments or address any financial issues they may have.
Ultimately, while children are still under the care and protection of parents and schools, it is our duty as parents, school staff and bursars to foster a relationship which enables students in financial difficulty to have the same opportunities as other children. It is important for children not to feel like they are deprived of the same chances as other students, as this could be detrimental to their development, both academically and socially.
Geoff Jones, ParentMail: www.parentmail.co.uk