Some Tauranga schools are reducing back to school cost for families in hardship, an effort to get learning underway immediately as term-one kicks off.
Gate Pa School is providing every pupil with free stationery this year and principal Rochelle Jensen says this move will help ease the financial burden on parents.
“No student will come with that angst of being the only one without stationery. We can focus on their learning straight away,” she says.
A primary school in Matapihi has been providing students with stationery packs for the past three years.
They also alleviate back to school costs by not asking parents for an annual donation.
Te Kura o Matapihi principal Tui Rolleston says free stationery helps each student start school on a level playing field.
“It means students can come to school, enjoy their learning and get on with being a kid rather than being anxious about stationery.”
Other barriers that can disrupt learning is pupil’s coming to school without food, and not owning the appropriate uniform, says Tui.
The school's breakfast club, supported by youth organisation KidsCan, serves toast, cereal and smoothies to students before each day begins.
“We are super lucky to receive kai to give all the students in the mornings. This is for everyone.”
A nationwide KidsCan survey on back to school costs has revealed that students are often absent on the first day or week of school because they don’t have the necessary supplies.
About 210 decile 1-4 schools responded to the KidsCan survey, with one teacher reporting that some parents have to choose between feeding their children or stationery.
“And stationery will always lose,” they wrote.
“Many parents do keep their children home until they can afford some books, uniforms also hold parents back,” another teacher wrote in the survey.
Rochelle says stationery and uniforms combined can cost families hundreds of dollars.
“We have families that have lots of children at our school, so you are multiplying a $40 stationery pack by three of four. And on top of that, you have uniforms.”
Both Gate Pa School and Te Kura o Matapihi have reduced uniform costs, the principals saying parents only need to purchase the compulsory polo shirts.
“Students can wear any bottoms, as long as they are plain black,” says Rochelle.
Tui says their school polos are priced between $35-40 depending on size.
Merivale School, who are also supported by KidsCan, offer a “pay as you go plan” for struggling parents.
“Those families that we know that are needing assistance, we contact them confidentially and many of them want to do the pay as you go plan,” says principal Tom Paekau.
He says thanks to generous community support, they can keep back to school costs to a minimum.
KidsCan assists more than 70 schools across the Bay of Plenty, providing them with food, shoes, raincoats and health supplies.
The charity is bringing 47 schools off it’s waiting list this term, meaning it now supports 787 schools across the country.
“We’re pleased that more children will be able to focus on learning, without sitting in class feeling cold and hungry, or not coming to school at all,” says KidsCan’s CEO and founder Julie Chapman.
“But this is not a milestone to be celebrated. It just highlights the level of hardship in New Zealand right now, and the enormous impact it’s having on our kids.”