Dumfries and Galloway Council Reduces Costs of School Day

As part of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s ongoing work to alleviate poverty in the region, and following the implementation of the Council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy, which was approved in June 2015, Members at Full Council in December 2015 agreed to remove the costs of home economics and technical subjects for all pupils.

This amounts to £90k per year for home economics/hospitality subjects and £40k per year for technical subjects.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Ronnie Nicholson and Chair of Education Committee, Cllr Jeff Leaver visited Maxwelltown High school on Friday (5th February) to sample for themselves some of the tasty meals being produced during Home Economics sessions at the school. The Councillors helped make some macaroni cheese, before sitting down alongside the pupils to enjoy their lunch. Councillor Leaver remarked “Very good it was too”.
Councillor Leaver said: “Dumfries and Galloway Council wanted to ensure all young people had equal access to classroom experiences in Home Economics and Technical Subjects to enable them to develop their skills and abilities in these subject areas. The removal of these costs started in January this year and will run for the next two years at a total funding cost of £295k, across all 16 secondary schools in Dumfries and Galloway. By removing these costs from the school day from everyone we are ensuring a level playing field, providing access to these subjects to all pupils.
It is important that no child should be excluded from activities or treated differently. Children who live in poverty can feel different and vulnerable and, as they often don’t participate in the activities their peers do, they can become socially isolated. This leads to a lack of confidence and low aspiration. We will make sure all school children are encouraged to be involved in their school day and we will support families by addressing and mitigating where possible, the cost of the school day.”
Currently, all pupils study Home Economics in S1 and 2 with a significant number continuing to study it in S3 as part of a broad general education. Greater numbers of young people are now opting to study these courses in more detail in the senior phase, not only to learn how to cook healthy, cost effective meals, but also with a view to working in the hospitality industry.
Charges for technical subjects varied across the 16 schools. Not all schools asked young people to make a contribution towards the cost of items, particularly in technical subjects, choosing instead to ask only for payment if the young person wished to take the item home. However, a significant number did apply a discretionary charge towards the cost of the items made as part of the curriculum (S1 – 6) regardless of whether or not the young person wished to keep the item they’d made.
All schools were found to be supplementing the costs associated with the delivery of technical courses through their devolved budgets and /or school funds. As a result of this a number of schools were forced to apply restrictions on the type of items the young people could make as part of their courses and assessed work to ensure affordability.

Councillor Ronnie Nicholson

The Council recognised that a significant number of schools were raising concerns about increasing numbers of young people experiencing difficulties in meeting the payment requirements for these subjects.
In session 2015 – 16 Maxwelltown High School opted to remove charges for all S1-2 pupils in Home Economics and Technical Subjects. The cost of this being covered during that session by the school’s devolved budget, however the school indicated that this was not sustainable long term.
Councillor Ronnie Nicholson went on to say: “Dumfries and Galloway Council has made it one of our top priorities to tackle the causes and effects of inequality and poverty. We want to remove the financial barriers for pupils which may prevent them from selecting courses in these subjects, thereby alleviating financial pressures for their families as a whole. By doing this we are also improving the progression to employment opportunities for young people in hospitality, food related and craft based careers, by providing free access to appropriate national qualifications.
Poverty affects so much of what we are trying to achieve as a council – providing the best start in life for our children, improving their life chances and building our local economy to provide jobs for our young people. We are tackling this problem head on with Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy, and the removal of these charges relate directly to this Strategy by reducing the cost of the school day and providing skills and opportunities for employment for our young people. ”

Photographs attached.
Councillor Ronnie Nicholson, Leader of the Council and Councillor Jeff Leaver, Chair of Education Committee with Maxwelltown High pupils

Councillor Nicholson with Maxwelltown High Pupil.

Latest Articles