Parents’ Council calls for rethink of school book-packs

Larger families and those on low incomes are being disadvantaged by the way many public schools arrange their annual ‘book-packs’.

The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations says that schools and the Education Directorate need to better consider family finances and the quality of items when entering into contracts for the bundles of school supplies parents are asked to purchase each year.

“At the end of each year, schools ask parents to purchase a pack of supplies, arranged through a set supplier, for each student. They contain vital items – stationary, books and so on – and parents are usually happy to purchase them, but the devil is in the detail and book-packs are a bugbear for many parents,” said Council Executive Member Crystal Cox.

“Parents are asked to pay in Term 4 – in the lead up to Christmas – but government assistance for low income families doesn’t arrive until February or March. There is usually a financial penalty if you wait to buy the pack in the new year and the extra fee is applied for each student. This penalises larger families and those on low incomes,” she explained.

“Some schools add voluntary contributions to the book-packs and that increases the financial burden at a difficult time of year. And while most schools offer sibling discounts on voluntary contributions, there is no way of applying these in the pre-ordered format of book-packs. Again, large families are being penalised.”

“We would really like to see voluntary contributions or subject contributions separated from the book-pack process,” said Ms Cox.

“We also need better payment options for families, especially large families, such as instalment payments without penalties.”

“We also receive regular complaints about the quality of items in book-packs. Low quality items can mean that they don’t last so the class is left short. We’d like the Education Directorate to be more fastidious in negotiating the supplier’s contract.”

“Quality education for all obviously relies on access to school supplies. We’d like families to know that if they are struggling, they should to contact their school’s principal or front office team, who may be able to offer assistance.”


Released February 1, 2019