Cost of putting a child through school to year 13 has risen to more than $38,000

Tisa Malaulau, left, is starting year 12 at Tawa College, this year. Mum Dinah Ostler-Malaulau, second from right, says ...
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Tisa Malaulau, left, is starting year 12 at Tawa College, this year. Mum Dinah Ostler-Malaulau, second from right, says it's costing the family hundreds to get her ready for the school year. Also pictured are Tisa's brother Isaac Malaulau and dad Tali Malaulau.

For a child born today, the cost of 13 years of "free" schooling has risen to more than $38,000, up 15 per cent on 10 years ago.

Shoes, stationery, uniform, class trips, textbooks, school donations, bus passes, and laptops – they all mount up as parents prepare to send their children back to school.

Research by ASG Education Programmes shows that, for a child born in 2017, 13 years of school will cost parents $38,362.

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For parents considering private education, that bill is now $345,996, or 48 per cent more than a decade ago, while integrated schools will cost $109,354 over 13 years.

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ASG said the figures are the "average estimated costs and represnt the highest amount parents and families could expect to pay".

Sarah Pope with her sons Nico, 9, and Isaac, 6. She has made saving for their future education a financial priority.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Sarah Pope with her sons Nico, 9, and Isaac, 6. She has made saving for their future education a financial priority.

Porirua mother of four Dinah Ostler-Malaulau said the family was likely to spend hundreds of dollars to get her year 12 daughter Tisa set up for the year. "It's expensive, really expensive."

On top of standard stationery requirements, the 16-year-old Tawa College student needed a graphics calculator, and art supplies. Fees for sport and school trips would add to that. The school also asks for a voluntary donation of about $200.

Ostler-Malaulau recently finished working as a teacher at Porirua College, a decile 1 school, where she saw how stressful the start of the school year could be for families.

Secondary Principals' Association Sandy Pasley says schools do what they can to help parents suffering financial stress ...
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Secondary Principals' Association Sandy Pasley says schools do what they can to help parents suffering financial stress at the start of the school year.

"Some parents cannot cope, they cannot afford the startup for the year."

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As a teacher, she often found herself handing out exercise books and pens for kids who did not have them.

She worried that, as more schools implemented bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, kids whose parents could not afford a laptop or tablet would simply miss out, creating further inequality in education.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says spending on education has increased by 35 per cent since 2008-09.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Education Minister Hekia Parata says spending on education has increased by 35 per cent since 2008-09.

In Christchurch, Sarah May Pope has traded in the dream of home ownership in order to allow herself choice in her sons' education.

She said she was not opposed to public schooling, but wanted the financial freedom to choose between public and private for Nico, 9, and Isaac, 6.

So she has decided savings are more important than four walls, overseas travel or other luxuries.

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins says Government funding has not kept up with the cost of educating children.
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Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins says Government funding has not kept up with the cost of educating children.

"The idea of putting money away gradually just made so much sense to us.

"We want to be able to say 'yes' to as many extracurricular things as possible, and we're aware as the kids get older the cost increases."

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the Government clearly was not living up to its promise of a free school education for all.

"Government funding simply hasn't been keeping up with the cost of educating kids. If they don't get the money from government, schools have to look elsewhere, and parents are the ones most likely to end up footing the bill. It's as simple as that."

Schools were in a tough position, because parents had high expectations, Secondary Principals' Association president Sandy Pasley said.

They could not provide the best opportunities without parents helping out through donations or other costs.

Most schools had a secondhand uniform shop, providing cheaper options for those who needed it.

When it came to stationery, Pasley said: "No school will see a student go without stationery if they can't afford it. Schools encourage families to let them know if they need help."

Education Minister Hekia Parata acknowledged it was an expensive time for families preparing for another school year.

She advised parents worrying about the costs of uniforms, stationery or other equipment to talk to schools, who could offer support and put parents in touch with organisations that could provide assistance.

Funding for schooling had increased 35 per cent since 2008-09, she said. This financial year, that amounted to more than $11 billion in early childhood, primary and secondary education, the highest investment yet in public education.

* A graphic that originally appeared with this story contained an error and has been removed.

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 - Stuff

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