The back-to-school burden facing Ballarat parents

REDAN PARENT Katherine Morris is taking a stand this year amid the back-to-school frenzy.

Ms Morris will not buy any new stationery for her son, who is entering grade six, until he determines from his teacher exactly what he needs.

Her son’s school, Phoenix P-12 Community College, is also introducing new uniforms over a two-year period and although Ms Morris says the school encourages students to start afresh this year, she is holding off a little.

Like any grade six boy, Ms Morris’s son is still growing and she is not keen to buy expensive items, such as blazers, just yet.

Ms Morris, a sole parent, estimates a complete new uniform will cost more than $600 on top of school fees, books, excursions, camps and swimming lessons.

“I’m taking a stand and not buying anything much,” Ms Morris said.

“Last year they only used half the school books we had to buy...I’ve left (buying) them and will hit the sales when the kids are back at school.”

Ms Morris was eligible for the Australian Government’s Schoolkids Bonus – most of the first of two $205 installments bought orthotics for her son’s shoes

She could hardly imagine how parents with more than one child could juggle increasing costs.

Savvy parents are making the most of the internet or school communities to tap into second-hand networks for uniforms and text books.

Some form book chains to buy from older students and pass on to younger ones.

Others are stocking up on basic stationery from supermarkets and large franchise sales or recycling old work books and pens where possible.

Extras, like lunch boxes, are items that some mums kept a close eye on and planned ahead to make the most of sales through the year rather than waiting for the old one to fall apart.

The Courier reader Helen Catherine suggested parents try www.sustainableschoolshop.com.au, an online forum to buy all things students might need, including sporting equipment, musical instruments and calculators.

Ms Catherine said the website aimed to match customers locally to avoid postage fees.

School uniform shops might be busy in the school year’s opening weeks but clever bargain hunters have told The Courier they can find great bargains towards the end of a season, like getting in early now to buy winter clothing.

Buying quality, especially in school shoes and uniforms, and making sure things last, was also a popular response – even if it meant dressing your child in slightly baggy clothing for a year or two.

Readers on the The Courier’s Facebook page said most of the heavy back-to-school costs could be avoided with clever budgeting and research – but most agreed it was tough to plan for all costs, even for those with the additional government SchoolKids Bonus.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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