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Back to school uniform purchase. Ashleigh Keach, 13, Karla Keach, and Brooke Keach, 10. Photo/George Novak

It’s a big cost that does need to be budgeted for, and it can be particularly hard for families who haven’t done so…

Diane Bruin, Tauranga Budget Advisory Service co-ordinator

Forking out between $200 to $400 for a new school uniform, as well as paying subject fees, stationery and school donations, can be a huge struggle for many families.

More parents are opting to spread their payments throughout the year to ease the burden, some taking advantage of automatic payment plans offered by schools and some uniform shops.

NZ Uniforms Tauranga store manager Tracy Biddle said this week had been non-stop for the store.

On average it would cost parents of a new school starter $200 for a primary school uniform and $400 for a high school uniform, depending on the school uniform criteria, she said.

Ms Biddle said the store introduced a Uniform Club card about 18 months ago, to assist parents in budgeting for the uniform expense, which had proved highly popular.

“It allows parents to pay a weekly or fortnightly amount into a special account, ready for use when required,” she said.

Tauranga Boys’ College principal Robert Mangan said his school had a couple of funding options to help parents struggling, including the Old Boys’ Welfare Fund.

“The last three days we have assisted a couple of families with uniform costs and the parents have assured us they will pay the cost off by automatic payment.

“We’re more than happy to assist parents and have an automatic payment plan available if families are struggling to meet some of their school fees.”

Mount Maunganui Intermediate principal Lisa Morresey said the school worked hard to keep expenses down, and operated a payment plan for needy families.

“At the end of the year some families donate their senior child’s uniform back to school, which is a great help. The uniforms are laundered and put up for sale in our second-hand uniform shop.

“Funds raised from the sale are put into a special fund which is used to assist parents who need help to cope with school costs. We also keep a portion of the donated uniforms back to assist students who need our support.”

Mrs Morresey said the school bought stationery in bulk to reduce this cost.

She urged parents in financial strife not to be embarrassed to let her know.

Merivale Primary School principal Jan Tinetti said: “We always have a payment plan option available for those parents who need it and keep our costs down as much as possible.”

One way the school reduced uniform costs was to sell polo shirts at $10 each, available from the school office, and stationery packs ranging in price from $12 to $20.

“We also have a number of people who regularly donate money to the school to help out parents they know will struggle to meet their child’s school expenses. It’s a great help,” she said.

Ms Tinetti said the school fee donation was set at $15 per child and was capped at $20, although struggling families were not expected to pay it.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service co-ordinator Diane Bruin said January and February were the busiest months for the service.

“Clients have started coming in seeking help, particularly to pay for clothing and uniform costs.

“It’s a big cost that does need to be budgeted for, and it can be particularly hard for families who haven’t done so, or those still dealing with the aftermath of the Christmas holiday.”

Travel costs were another “biggie” for students who lived in areas where there was no other means of transport to and from school but the bus, she said.

Work and Income grants are available to help some families meet their back-to-school costs.

-by Sandra Conchie, Bay of Plenty Times

-Tauranga Budget Advisory Service Contact Details