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?