Parents tested by soaring school sums bill

Article date: 1 September 2008

  • Average cost of sending a child to school adds up to almost £16K

The start of this school year is set to put the nation's parents to the test as a new study reveals the average cost of putting a child through school in the UK is now £15,940*.

Norwich Union, part of Aviva, reveals in its "School Sums" Index that the total bill for sending a child to state school - from the ages of five through 16 - has increased by more than £1,500 in the last two years alone.

In total, UK parents can now expect to fork out a staggering £11.4 billion** just in the 2008/2009 school year on the everyday costs associated with their kids' education. That works out at £1,449 per child per school year.

The top three most expensive components of a child's schooling are:

  1. Transport - soaring fuel costs mean UK parents now spend a total of over £2.9 billion a year (£366 per child per year) with a third of children being taken to school by car
  2. Food - parents spend £2.8 billion a year on lunches (£358 per child per year) with nearly twice as much spent each week on school dinners than packed lunches
  3. Sports kit - costing parents a total of £1.3 billion a year (£169 per child per year), which comes in more expensive than technology or text books

Seven out of 10 parents (70%) told Norwich Union researchers they were concerned about how they would afford all the costs of sending their children to school this year, whilst two thirds (60%) said they planned to buy school clothes from cheaper stores such as supermarkets to help make the sums add up.

In fact, increasing costs are leaving many families in the UK saddled with debt as some parents use credit cards (19%) and overdrafts (10%) whilst others dip into their savings (14%) to pay the school bill.

The Norwich Union 2008 "School Sums" Index, which has been undertaken by the company every two years since 2002, also shows:

  • Over a child's school lifetime - totalling eleven years - on average parents will have to shell out for 59 pairs of trousers or skirts, 46 shirts or blouses, 53 jumpers, 46 pairs of shoes and 30 school trips
  • Mobile and internet technology continues to be a major cost coming in at approximately the same amount as text books over a child's school lifetime (£542 per child)
  • In 11 years of schooling parents can expect to spend on average around 1100 hours (the equivalent to more than six weeks) helping their children with homework.

Trevor Bailey of Norwich Union said: "Nowadays there is no such thing as a free education and making extra financial provision for the everyday costs associated with school is something parents can overlook, in addition to making steps to mitigate for the unforeseen.

"The average annual bill for sending a child to school is now almost £1,500 and for families with two or three children this can quickly rack up putting significant pressure on the family finances.

"If parents do their school sums now, they'll know what they need to put aside and be more prepared for the future."


For further information:
Jessica Gooch
Telephone: 0207 908 6447 / 07970 152155

Jess Silver
Telephone: 0207 908 6545 / 07968 616774

Notes to editors:

* The total cost of sending a child to school is £15,940. This figure was calculated by the following method: Parents were asked to give the average cost and frequency of purchase per year for a selection of school related items. The sum of all items taken as an average, is the cost per year per child. This figure was multiplied by the total number of school years (from five to 16) to give the cost per school life.

** The overall national cost for 2008/2009 was calculated by multiplying the cost per year per child by the number of school children in the UK (National Office of Statistics figure for 2007 (not including children in nursery, non maintained, special, pupil referral units or "other" secondary education) 7,863,390).

These figures do not include allowance for inflation or population changes.

Norwich Union commissioned research with amongst 1009 UK parents of school age children in August 2008. Regional statistics are available on request.  

About Norwich Union
Norwich Union is one of the UK's biggest life insurers. It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union has strategic alliances with building societies and other leading UK brand names including CIS and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

In the summer of 2009 Norwich Union will change its name to Aviva. Aviva is the world's fifth largest insurance group and operates in 27 countries. Aviva is to become the customer brand worldwide, thus enabling the company to compete even more effectively on a global scale for the benefit of customers, staff, business partners and shareholders.

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