School costs pile up for parents

BIG BILLS: Tracy Unger with son, Christian, 7, and daughter Emily, 10.
DEAN KOZANIC/ Fairfax NZ

BIG BILLS: Tracy Unger with son, Christian, 7, and daughter Emily, 10.

Parents struggling with back-to-school costs were shocked to find $500 laptop computers added to compulsory stationery lists.

Research has shown that parents of Kiwi children born this year will spend more than $37,000 on a full state education.

Education experts say this will only increase with the advancing digital age.

Christchurch mum Kylie Innes said back to school stress was "raw" after she discovered she was required to buy a $530 Acer Chromebook for her 9-year-old son, Jacob, as part of this year's stationery list.

"I work fulltime and I'm going to struggle with it, so I can imagine it would be even worse for those who don't."

She was a "wee bit anxious" about requirements when her 12-year-old daughter, Mihi, reached secondary school.

While Avondale School gave parents the payment option of $4-a-week instalments, Innes worried the device would not last the two years it would take to pay off.

Avondale principal Mark Scown said the request was part of an initiative among five clusters of Christchurch schools to ensure pupils had access to suitable digital technology at home.

It was modelled on research and trials on pupils from lower decile schools in Auckland.

"[The initiative] found there is a huge and significant lift in student achievement," Scown said.

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"So many homes in our communities don't have readily accessible computers, let alone internet connectivity."

There might be "a bit of passive resistance" from some parents but they would soon see the benefits, he said.

An annual ASG Education Programmes survey of more than 1000 Kiwi parents found the cost of putting a child through school was rising faster than inflation.

For a child born this year, 13 years of state education will cost up to $37,676, state integrated schooling up to $107,962 and a private school education is estimated to cost $323,814.

The figures were based on inflation predictions and estimated costs of school fees, transport, uniforms, computers, school excursions and sporting trips.

ASG chief executive John Velegrinis said a child's education should be invested in early, like saving to purchase the family home.

"What we're advocating is that by putting a little bit away, parents are more likely to achieve the goals and aspirations they have for their children."

Tracy Unger and her husband pay $2000 each year in fees alone to put their children Emily, 10, and Christian, 7, through state-integrated Emmanuel Christian School in Christchurch.

They made sacrifices to afford the education that fitted their beliefs, including bargain-hunting for used uniforms and shoes, she said.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said costs for parents were rising as the Government "abdicated responsibility" for costs of learning essentials.

"There is a mismatch between what New Zealand really wants for their kids and what the Government will fund," she said.

Education Ministry spokeswoman Lesley Hoskin said OECD figures showed New Zealand student expenditure was "around average".

Operational grants had increased each year at more than the rate of inflation, she said.

Decisions about other costs associated with the delivery of curriculum, such as the use of electronic devices, were made by schools, Hoskin said.

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 - The Press

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