On the face of it education in Scotland is free, but there are often hidden or extra costs that can act as a barrier to participation in school.

Whilst schools can’t eradicate child poverty alone, many are removing or reducing school costs. This is helping to mitigate the impact of the inequality in health, wellbeing and learning outcomes being experienced by our children.

The cost of school

We have produced a film called The Cost of School to explain why addressing child poverty in schools is important and share insights, approaches and tools to support low cost and low resource solutions at Local Authority and school level.

Watch the trailer and then full length film below. Or, go directly to the full length film on YouTube (external site)

Cost of the school day toolkit

Complimentary to the film, a cost of the school day toolkit has been created by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Scotland. This is to support consultation with education staff, children and families on costs and financial barriers.

The toolkit supports the development of interventions to

  • reduce cost
  • increase participation
  • minimise income stigma
  • support families.

It includes discussion prompts, images, audit tools, surveys, session plans and case studies to facilitate discussion and action.

Network for Local Authority education representatives

We provide a network for Local Authority education representatives who have a strategic remit to lead on and progress actions to address the cost barriers of school. It is called the Facing up to Child Poverty in Schools: Practice Network.

The network provides a structure through which peer support, the exchange of practice and national level support is facilitated. It engages with relevant national partners to exchange perspectives, enable collaboration and take action, such as

Local level actions that the network considers and supports include

  • poverty proofing school policies
  • automation of school clothing grant
  • provision of free sanitary products in school settings
  • holiday programme provision in support of tackling food insecurity
  • the implementation of our Cost of School short film and CPAG Scotland’s national Cost of the School Day Toolkit (both available above).

You can email the practice network secretariat to get involved.

Free school meals

In January 2015 the Scottish Government introduced universal free school meals (UFSM) for all children in primary one to three.

We are leading the evaluation of this alongside colleagues from the

You can find more information about this within our UFSM evaluations and briefing papers.