Falling Through the Cracks: The Cost of the School Day for Families Living in In-work and Out-of-work Poverty

Morag Treanor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
388 Downloads (Pure)


Poverty is known to deleteriously affect children's experience of, and success in, education. One facet of this relationship is the financial costs associated with full participation in education in what has become known as the ‘cost of the school day’. This paper draws on a small-scale longitudinal qualitative study of families living in poverty, drawn from a wider study called the ‘Early Warning System’, carried out in collaboration with the Child Poverty Action Group Scotland. The paper explores the experiences of parents in out-of-work and in-work poverty, and cycling between the two, in relation to school costs for their children and the effects this has on their wider financial situation. The findings show that families experiencing in-work poverty, especially those who have recently moved from receipt of out-of-work benefits, face the financial hurdle of not being entitled to passported benefits such as free school meals, school clothing grants, and initiatives such as schools’ subsidies of activities and trips. The longitudinal aspects of the study design allow the impacts that changes in entitlement to benefits have on families. The paper concludes that the costs of the school day can be unseen and not well understood by educators but keenly felt by children and families living in low-income and makes recommendations to mitigate this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-511
Number of pages26
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Child Poverty
  • cost of school
  • access to education
  • in-work poverty
  • education


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