Kids to go without essential school items as cost of living crisis ramps up

Kids to go without essential school items as cost of living crisis ramps up

For the second year in a row, the cost-of-living crisis is impacting the ability of Australian families to afford essential back to school items for their children, a new survey shows.

The survey of more than 2,200 families, conducted by The Smith Family, shows 88.3% are worried to some degree about being able to afford all the things their children will need for school in 2024. Of these, three in ten (30%) are very worried and three in ten (31.7%) are somewhat worried.

Around half of the survey respondents (51.2%) think their children are likely to miss out on the digital devices needed for their schoolwork because they won’t be able to afford them. One in six (16.6%) think their children will miss out on internet access for schoolwork.

Other findings from the survey show nearly half (45.6%) think their children will miss out on uniforms or shoes for school and that four in ten (40.6%) think their children will miss out on educational activities outside of school, while one in three (32%) think their children will miss out on school excursions.

One respondent said that “Everything has gone up with the cost of living. It has been difficult trying to juggle transport to and from school and other commitments he [my son] has. As an aspiring athlete, his schedule has been a lot to manage both physically and financially as a single parent.”

Another said their hope for the new school year was for their child to have “All the material they would require, and to not have to worry about money.”

In Queensland alone, two-thirds of people are having trouble paying their rent or mortgage, and a third expect their financial situation to worsen over the next year, according to new polling reported by the Courier Mail this week.

The Smith Family’s CEO, Doug Taylor said the families that the charity supports “make impossible decisions every day about how to prioritise the limited resources they have”.

“Housing, food, and power are top of the list, but the cost of these essentials have all risen rapidly, meaning educational essentials like uniforms, books, a laptop and the internet are increasingly hard to afford,” Taylor said.

One of the most concerning findings, said Taylor, is that half the respondents said their children are likely to miss out on digital devices.

“Laptops and the internet are as essential as pens and paper in the 21st-century classroom. Without them, students will struggle to do their schoolwork and keep up with their peers,” he said.

“Every Australian would agree that all children should have the same opportunities as their peers at school, so they can achieve their potential.”

To help Australian families afford essential school items, The Smith Family is launching its Back to School Appeal, calling on Australians to sponsor a child to help them thrive at school and beyond.

The charity is seeking 6,700 new sponsors for its Learning for Life education support program, which provides financial, emotional, and practical support for students experiencing disadvantage. This support lasts for a child’s entire educational journey.

“Learning for Life, which is enabled by generous Australians, is a game changer; it means that every child we help can access what they need to make the most of their education,” Taylor said.

“Things like a new school uniform and laptop can make children feel like they are a part of a school, so does the ability to take part in school excursions, sporting teams, or take music lessons – all of which increases a child’s confidence and self-belief.”

Research conducted by the charity shows 85% of students engaging with the program who were in Year 12 in 2020 were in education, employment, or training two and a half years after leaving school.

Students on the program also have access to a range of proven numeracy, reading, digital literacy, and mentoring programs, so they can build essential skills while also helping to increase their aspirations and reach their potential.

“The long-term support we provide is so important. Research shows that children who start school behind are, on average, four years behind in maths and more than five years behind in reading by the time they reach Year 9,” Taylor said.

“Our support starts early and lasts until that child has finished their education. This gives them the tools and resources they need to keep up with their peers, complete their education and go on to further study or work.”