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As pupils prepare for the start of term 1 next week, many have had to buy new uniforms, stationery and laptops to meet their school’s requirements.
Otago Primary Principals’ Association president Gareth Swete and Otago Secondary Principals’ Association president Lindy Cavanagh-Monaghan acknowledged this was a tough time for some families.
Mr Swete is the Sawyers Bay School principal and Ms Cavanagh Monaghan is principal of Blue Mountain College, in Tapanui.
They encouraged families to contact their schools to discuss possible financial support options.
"Schools are in the best position within their community to know what support’s available," Mr Swete said.
"I know that no school within Dunedin would ever want children to miss out due to financial circumstances."
Uniforms were one of the major expenses, but in Dunedin there was a good balance of primary schools which either required a full uniform, had a range of options for pupils, or did not have a uniform at all, he said.
"Schools work extremely hard to ensure that our children are well-catered for."
Other big expenses included sports fees and equipment, school camps, lunches and donations.
"The primary goal of ... any school is education and, of course, they all work extremely hard to give their children every opportunity that they possibly can while also being very realistic," Mr Swete said.
Although schools could not provide financial help directly, they may be able to work with families to ensure any expenses did not get in the way of the pupils’ learning, Ms Cavanagh-Monaghan said.
"I think everyone is aware that there are many financial pressures on households and schools certainly work hard to minimise the costs for [pupils] without compromising on quality."
This could include helping to access necessary items, or creating a payment plan to spread costs throughout the year.
"Where they can often help is through voluntary services such as second-hand uniform supplies and connecting people with families of departed [pupils] so that items can be passed on."
Secondhand uniform shops are common among schools and enable families to buy decent items for a reasonable price.
Otago Boys’ High School Parent Teachers Association co-chairwoman Penny Cumming said the school’s shop was "flat out" last week.
She noticed there were less uniform items given to the shop this year, as some people tended to sell them themselves on social media for a higher price.
"We try to make it reasonably priced so it’s affordable."