Cost of living increases

Cost of living increases adding to educational challenges

Our charity partner, The Smith Family, is a national children’s education charity with a vision of a world where every child has the opportunity to change their future, no matter what their circumstances.

In this year's Smith Family Pulse Survey, more than 2,200 parents and carers whose children are supported by The Smith Family were asked about their children's experience of school during 2023 and how they coped with the expenses involved.

A second consecutive year of escalating living costs has meant another difficult time for families experiencing disadvantage. In fact, nearly 60% of survey participants said they found it hard or harder to afford all the school essentials their children needed in 2023.

Just over 52% cited increases in everyday expenses such as groceries, rent, home energy costs, and petrol, and more than half revealed that the cost of school essentials has increased for them.

A combined 53.9% cited their children's need for more things for school or their need for the same things that were now more expensive as the reason for decreased affordability.

Over a third of parents and carers said that school had been hard or very hard for their children in 2023. The reasons for this varied but generally related to health (including mental health and disability issues) and social issues related to school such as bullying and making friends.

Struggling with schoolwork was also a significant contributor in making the school year hard, as were financial pressures. Other issues at school include factors like transitioning to high school, general motivation, digital access and behavioural concerns.

One parent said, “Year 9 is proving to be the hardest socially, emotionally and academically. Motivation is at an all-time low and broken BYODs (Bring Your Own Devices) waiting for repairs and finances to repair, hasn’t helped.”

Despite it being a tough year for many families, their children still made significant progress in a range of areas that made their parents proud. The most commonly cited cause of pride for parents and carers was seeing the progress their children had made in their learning. This was followed by the effort their children were making at school and the level of their children’s achievement.

One parent said they were most proud of "… how resilient and persistent my child has proved himself to be, facing all the learning challenges he has endured."

This is the fourth Pulse survey to be carried out by The Smith Family. The first survey presented the perspective of The Smith Family’s frontline team members; all the following surveys spoke to the families who are supported through The Smith Family. The survey is repeated annually to provide a snapshot of families’ changing circumstances and hear directly from parents and carers about issues affecting their children’s education.

Read more about The Smith Family’s findings from their latest Pulse Survey here.