1 February 2019

Parents Council calls to rethink 'bugbear' school book-packs

| Lachlan Roberts
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Packing pains: parents council urge Education Directorate to reconsider school book-packs.

The peak body for public school parents is calling for a rethink of school book-packs, saying the packs can be a bugbear and a financial burden on families.

ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations believes low-income and large families are disadvantaged by the way many schools arrange their annual book-packs and are calling for the Education Directorate to re-evaluate.

At the end of each year, schools ask parents to purchase a pack of supplies of stationery, notepads and books – arranged through a set supplier – for each student. Council’s executive member Crystal Cox said most parents are usually happy to buy the packs but the devil in the detail makes the packs a bugbear for many parents.

“Parents are asked to pay in Term 4 – in the lead up to Christmas – but Government assistance for low-income families doesn’t arrive until February or March,” Ms Cox said.

“There is usually a financial penalty if you wait to buy the pack in the new year and the extra fee is applied for each student, which penalises larger families and those on low incomes.”

Ms Cox said some schools add voluntary contributions to the book-packs, which can also increase the financial burden at a difficult time of year. While most schools offer sibling discounts on voluntary contributions, there is no way of applying these in the pre-ordered format of book-packs.

“We need better payment options for families, especially large families, such as instalment payments without penalties,” she said. “We would really like to see voluntary contributions or subject contributions separated from the book-pack process.”

The Council also raised concerns about the quality of items in the bundles of school supplies parents are asked to purchase each year, saying they receive regular complaints about the quality of the items.

“Low-quality items can mean that they don’t last so the class is left short. We would like the Education Directorate to be more fastidious in negotiating the supplier’s contract,” Ms Cox said.

“Quality education for all obviously relies on access to school supplies. We’d like families to know that if they are struggling, they should contact their school’s principal or front office team, who may be able to offer assistance.”

Are school book-packs a bugbear or financial burden for your family?

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A lot of the commenters here have obviously not been around at the end of a school year, where the remainder of the stationery is bundled up and given back to the students.

Its also not fair on a child to give them a 2 year old, chewed dingy pencil to work with, let alone a set of textas where half of them probably don’t work – this is why the schools ‘reset’ at the start of each year to give your cherubs the best possible outcome and removing an obvious line of complaint from the over-anxious parents that we-all-know-who-you-are in explaining why their cherub isn’t getting an A in class.

My Daughter has for several years run a donation collection at the end of the year and sent all the spare school equipment to buk bilong pikinini in PNG – we didn’t need a 3rd or 4th set of the stuff at home (I’m looking at you, sniggle) and it does a ton of better work up there.

So, that’s why you get asked, and now you know what you can do with the returned equipment at the end of the year.

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