Schools across Fife are helping families cope with the rising cost of living, councillors heard today at the Education Scrutiny Committee.
A report on the Attainment Scotland Fund 2021-22, including Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) and the Cost of the School Day, highlighted a number of different ways in which families are being supported by our school communities. From blazer banks, to new school ties, to toiletries available to pick up, our schools are doing what they can to make sure that no child’s access to education is impacted by poverty.
There was unanimous support from elected members for the work that is ongoing and Committee Convener, Cllr Kathleen Leslie, echoed the general feeling when she said:
“We all agree that every child should have the same access to quality education and the family’s income should not have any impact on this. We want all children to have the same chances in life. We know that is not the case, however, and poverty within families and communities can have a real impact on a child’s education.
“Both the Attainment Scotland Fund and the PEF grants are making a difference within the schools which are involved. To add to this Fife Council’s commitment to lowering or eradicating the hidden costs in the school day is also making a difference to families who are struggling. Costs come through things like school trips, materials for practical subjects, uniforms and PE kits or music lessons.
“It is very interesting to see how individual schools have tackled the cost of the school day and the innovative ideas they have had to do so. There is some really good practice highlighted in the paper before us today and I’d be good to see these ideas being shared and rolled out across our schools.”
A significant number of schools continue to have uniform banks and this has been extended to include personal products. Some schools have extended this to offer clothes washing, laundry products and home cleaning products.
Many schools had removed the cost related to the curriculum, for example charges for resources in practical courses like Home Economics and Design Technology, prior to the Scottish Government funding being made available. This is now in place in all secondary schools.
Schools have also started to look at the accessibility of school trips, especially at high school. The costs relating to music tuition have been removed in primary and secondary school for all young people.
Active schools have also worked with local partners to provide cost free after school clubs in most Fife schools and every young person, who needs one, now has a chromebook device suitable to complete schoolwork at home.
Councillors also heard that Café Inc has continued to provide a universal offer of food during school holidays across Fife and most secondary schools offered all young people sitting exams free water and a snack. Additional food is provided through breakfast clubs or food carts and a few schools have a resource box in each classroom with resource toiletries and snacks from which young people can help themselves. Officers are looking to scale and spread the effective practice in this area and are setting up a working group of headteachers to do this.