EVERY effort is being made by Fife Council to ease the burden on parents as the poverty aspect is fully recognised by staff.

Education is of course free for all children in Scotland but a report to the Education and Children’s Services Committee last year highlighted that there can be hidden costs in sending children to school.

Uniforms, sports equipment, school trips etc all add up and put increasing pressure on families already struggling financially.

This week councillors were given an update on the progress made within schools in Fife to address these costs and help ease the burden on families.

Staff at all of the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area's 16 primary schools and Beath and Lochgelly High Schools are fully aware of the impact that poverty can have in this area.

Education and Children’s Services Committee Convener Cllr Fay Sinclair said: “It is well documented that poverty can have a huge impact on children’s attainment in school.

"It was great then to hear from head teachers about how the work done on the cost of the school day is now leading to changes and initiatives in schools that are making a huge difference to pupils. "From uniform swap shops and universal breakfast clubs, to targeted support for families, the training and 'top tips' developed in Fife are already leading to schools being more poverty-aware and taking steps to minimise the impact on children and families

"Within Fife, just under one quarter of our children are living in poverty. They aren’t all living in disadvantaged areas either, less than half of them do. That’s why it is so important to be aware of the impact of poverty in all our schools. We don’t want any of our children to feel excluded or ashamed or stigmatised by poverty."

Fife has been looking at the impact of 10 key aspects of school life and what individual schools can do to counter them. They are Getting dressed for school; Travelling to school; Learning at school; Friendships at school; School trips; Eating at school; Fun events; School clubs; Learning at home; and Attitudes to poverty.

A short-life, working group representing staff, parents and pupils has been set up. The work is still in its early stages but the group is developing draft guidance for schools, Top Tips and a space online where schools can share information and good practice.

Fife Council has also developed, in conjunction with Edinburgh City Council, “Poverty Matters,” a training programme being delivered to all school staff to raise awareness of poverty and how schools can help.

Schools are already running a range of programmes to help ease the financial burden on families. All secondary schools are monitoring the uptake of clubs by young people experiencing poverty.

Similar work is being done in primaries. In Cowdenbeath PS all class teachers run one after school club per year which is free of charge. All stages in school have access to at least one club.

By August 2019 all school websites and booklets will have a direct link to apply for Free School Meals and the School Uniform Grant.

Cllr Sinclair concluded: “This report has shown us that across Fife there is a huge amount of work being done to recognise and act upon poverty in schools. Our initial report on the Cost of the School Day raised awareness of how much unintentional, financial pressure was put on family budgets. This meant children and young people were missing out on opportunities or felt excluded by family incomes.

“In Fife we believe that every child matters and every child must be given the same access to all the opportunities and benefits that our schools have to offer. We will continue this work to create an equal environment for all our children and close the attainment gap."