Glasgow & West Scotland

Renfrewshire fund helps families with school costs

Pupil at school

A council says a special fund to help families with the cost of sending their children to school is getting results.

The fund set up by Renfrewshire Council helps families on low incomes meet costs such as transport or stationery.

It has even helped make it possible for some teenagers to attend school proms.

The scheme - worth £280,000 over three years - is thought to be the first of its kind in Scotland. Decisions on how to spend the money are at the discretion of the head teacher.

Guidance is given to them on categories such as uniforms or clothing, attendance at homework clubs and social or curricular expenses.

Deprived areas

Every school in the council's area receives some money from the fund, although the allocation is weighted towards the schools with the greatest number of students living in deprived postcode areas.

Some schools will get more than £10,000 over three years.

The scheme started last August and is now going in to its second school year.

The council says sending a child to school can cost families up to £1,950 a year - £240 to prepare them for the new term then £50 a week.

Last year a local commission on tackling poverty said more needed to be done to break down financial barriers to education.

Head teachers say the money has made a real difference to some of their students.

Nova Scott, head teacher at Williamsburgh Primary in Paisley, said: "It was lovely to be able to pay a significant chunk of money for some children towards their residential trip.

"Parents were so grateful and many said they had been worrying about how they were going to afford it.

"To be able to take that pressure away from families in the run-up to Christmas left us feeling like we had made a difference to that child and their family."

'Smile on faces'

Lynn Ferguson, head teacher at West Primary in Paisley, added: "We used some of the money to buy PE kit which is gifted to pupils who regularly come to borrow such items.

"It was great to see the smile on their faces when we hand them over their new gym kit in a kit bag.

"The relief on the faces of parents who had been struggling to pay for their child's residential trip was another highlight and enough to bring on not only their tears but mine."

David Nicholls, head teacher at Gleniffer High in Paisley, said: "I think this is one of the best initiatives I've seen in schools in my years of teaching. We are delighted with it.

"It recognises the issues with the cost of the school day and that some pupils need to be supported in this way.

"We have an activities day - as do all schools - and some pupils would not have been able to take part if we hadn't helped pay for them to go.

"S6 school proms are now a bit of an industry and the pressure that creates is intense - particularly on the females. We paid for parts of that for some pupils who wouldn't have been able to go.

"It was all dealt with very discreetly by our pastoral staff and nobody needed to know who. But it makes sure all pupils are fully included in all aspects of school life."

The scheme is in addition to the council's annual clothing grants.

It offers grants of £55 for every eligible pupil.

Last year, a series of freedom of information requests made by BBC Scotland highlighted wide variations in clothing grants and additional support for children from low income families across Scotland.

Parents on a low income could be given anything from £20 to £110 to put towards school uniforms each year.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said the Scottish government wanted to see an acceptable level of grant across Scotland.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney is to meet with local authorities to discuss a minimum grant.

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