The Real Cost of “Free Schooling”

The British government, of whatever political persuasion, makes a great deal out of the fact that primary and secondary education in this country is provided free of charge. Parents do not have to pay to send their kids to school, and unless they opt out of the state system, there are no fees to pay at any stage of a child’s education, until University age. So from that, it would be fair to assume that parents are not expected to pay anything towards their child’s education, right? Wrong. Although parents are not charged to send their children to school, there is a long list of charges which can cause serious damage to the wallet.


Schools have recently been attacked by the Office of Fair Trading for the lack of competition in the uniform market. Parents are in general in agreement that uniform is a good thing, and many schools have capitalized on this by introducing a compulsory uniform. Many schools have chosen a basic white shirt and black trousers uniform which can be bought anywhere, but others insist that their pupils wear blazer, sweatshirt, polo shirt and PE kit all with the school logo. At around £15 per polo shirt compared with £2 for a plain one from the supermarket, the cost soon rockets.

School Uniform


Schools are not allowed to ask for donations or fundraise to pay the salaries, rent or provide basic equipment such as jotters. Times are tight economically though, and many of the non-essential items in a school may have to be bought through funds raised by the parents. This could include additional laptops so children do not have to share, extra sash clamps for the technical department, playground equipment or sports equipment. Parents are not forced to take part in the raffle to raise money for the sash clamps, but can feel pressured into contributing if they feel that everyone else is.

School Trips

One of the biggest bones of contention when it comes to parents’ finances is the issue of school trips. Schools do try to keep costs to a minimum, and will have funds to help parents who genuinely cannot afford the cost, but many parents feel an understandable stigma in flagging this up to the Head Teacher. The bigger pressure comes as children get older, and the day trip to a local museum or castle turns into a week-long stay at an outdoors activity centre or a fortnight’s skiing in Austria. These trips can often be hugely expensive, but the upside is that many other parents will be in the same boat and not every child in the class will be going.

Also read: 5 Reasons Parents Still Choose Private Schools


Although the basics of education are covered by central government, some schools ask parents to make additional contributions for materials used in class. Parents whose children are taking Home Economics will be expected to either send in cash or buy ingredients for cooking classes, and those whose children study music will be expected to fork out for instruments or music stands. This can all add considerably to the cost of a basic education.

It’s unlikely that as a parent you should have to contribute such large items in terms of ‘materials’ as sash clamps, however you may be ushered into fund raising for new workshop equipment or similar.  Bridge Tools have an excellent selection of workshop tools available including everything that a child would be expected to use in a Design & Technology class.

About Sumana Poul

Sumana Poul is experienced blogger, live in the heart of Minnesota. Currently works as the Social Media consultant at IdeaFry.

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