Back to school bother

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Queenstown’s Salvation Army volunteers are hoping to lend a much-needed helping hand to parents this year as back-to-school costs pile up.

Local Salvation Army social worker Hine Marchand says the stress parents on low incomes feel due to rising rent and living costs in the resort, as well putting their children through school, is “horrendous”.

She’s in the early stages of planning a programme to offer budgeting and life-skills advice at schools in the resort, which will be one of the group’s main focuses this year.

“We put the feelers out last year to get a measure of the hardships people face.

“We know of the hardships because we’re aware of issues with family violence.”

parents have far too much to pay for to cover school costs, including compulsory fees, books and other equipment.

“The resources are pressed and costs are on the up.

“If we can just take the stress off some of these families.”

She says it’s a slippery slope to causing anxiety, depression and intolerance within families.

“They shouldn’t have to worry about that with all the other costs.”

She says the charity’s previously sponsored a couple of kids at Remarkables Primary School and this new project could be a big step towards helping other families struggling to cover back-to-school costs.

“We’re definitely doing something to combat it this year.”

Education fund provider ASG estimates the total cost of 13 years of education for one child starting at a state school this year’s about $35,750.

That’s about $2750 per child each year.

Remarkables Primary parents can expect to pay as much as $233-$320 per child for the necessary uniform, stationery and other essentials listed on its recommended retail website, while those with children in Wakatipu High School Year 9 face forking out $623-$743. They also have the option of spending an extra $499 on the school’s recommended ‘bring your own device’ tablet.

The school offers some families access to its Awhi Fund for financial support.

Many parents with children at state schools also pay travel, food and extracurricular activities costs, and are also asked for donations to the school.

Figures show school costs in the country are on the rise.

Meanwhile, parents still wait for the government to make good of its pre-election promise of a $150 per pupil grant for schools that stop asking them for donations to help cover costs.

Warehouse Stationery and The Salvation Army are currently running a fundraiser at 21 stores across the country, giving customers at the stationery stores a chance to donate a dollar to families struggling with back-to-school costs.

The company’s already advanced $30,000 worth of gift cards to support low-income families finding it tough to meet the costs.

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz