Back to School

Mention the words ‘back to school’ to a mother who has heard nothing but “Mum, I’m bored” for 6 straight weeks over the summer holidays, and she’s likely to burst into tears of joy. But unfortunately this is not the case for all Aussie mums.

I read an article the other day about an increase in charities reporting families struggling with back to school costs – Aussie families struggle with back to school blues, and, as always, it got me thinking.

Firstly, I assume that it’s the families of kids at public schools that are struggling, ‘cause if you’re scraping money together to buy a school uniform at a private school it’s probably time to check out the local public one. Ok, I am biased on this subject as I attended public schools growing up. But as an adult, I look around the people I know and can’t see a difference between those who were privately and those who were publicly schooled. If it means tossing up between making a mortgage payment and a term’s fees at a college, I reckon it’s a no-brainer.

Kids from poorer families can have the bejesus teased out of them for not wearing the right clothes, discouraging them from attending. Many schools operate a clothing pool that sells new and cheap second hand uniforms. I distinctly remember my mother going off her brain at me for arriving home at the end of year 10 with a shirt that Cam McPherson had ripped the buttons off. He thought it was all part of the harmless celebrations of completing junior high school. Mum was adamant that all my junior uniforms were destined for a second life in the clothing pool.

A really simple way to save money at the January back to school sales is to use last year’s stuff. Do you really need a new ruler, coloured pencils, calculator, pencil case, bag, shoes, desktop computer, folders and whatever else it is that’s desperately being reduced by Office Works ‘cause they didn’t make as much over Christmas as the bean counters had figured? Probably not. I remember having 3 school bags and one pencil case from year 4 through to the end of year 12 when most of my school friends had a new bag every year. In fact I took my school bag to my 10 year reunion (and wore an old uniform that I rescued from mum giving to the clothing pool). Lots of people said to me that night that I hadn’t changed a bit.

If you are really up against it, get in touch with The Smith Family. They run a program called Learning For Life where people can sponsor a school kid for things like uniforms, books and school outings. It has been running for a while and some of the results for the kids involved have been quite amazing. If you are eligible for your kids to receive assistance – great. If you are reading this blog and you have the spare cash to be able to sponsor a needy Aussie kid – even better.

Getting a good education is one of the most important things in life and most parents recognise this. Fitting in at school can be just as important for a child to get that education.