Meeting the costs of education in Victoria
The Education and Training Reform Act says that all students in government schools must have free instruction in the standard curriculum program. That should make it easy but schools can request payment for:
- Essential learning items such as text books, stationery, excursions, etc. (There are cheaper options than they offer and ways around if you cannot pay).
- Optional items offered in addition to the standard curriculum, which you are not obligated to pay such as school magazines, class photos, music tuition, formals etc.
Schools can ask you to make a voluntary financial contribution towards a building or library fund. This is optional and you do not have to pay it.
It is helpful to know more about school costs generally. The Victorian governments new parent payment policy emphasises the principle that all children should have access to the standard curriculum regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. There are questions and answers on the link including one on Can my child be denied access to the standard curriculum program on the basis of me not paying these charges?
Talk to the school
If you are in hardship, try speaking to the School Welfare Officer, Principal or nominated parent payment contact person about what support options are available.
These usually include:
- Payment options including waiving or reducing fees, deferring payments, extending deadlines, flexible payment plans, cost saving alternatives & referrals to government and community assistance programs
- Referrals to State Schools’ Relief (see below)
- Assistance with second hand text books or text book hire schemes
- Access to a personal device during times where a device is required at school or where a device has not been purchased or leased by the family
- Interpreting and translation services.
Remember that you do not have to agree to something you cannot afford.
If none of these options work, call our Support line 03 9654 0622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more ideas and ways forward.
Uniform and school shoes
State Schools’ Relief (SSR) provides assistance with uniforms, shoes & other items (such as scientific calculators) to students in need who are attending a Victorian government school. In 2018, Prep & Year 7 recipients of the Camps Sports & Excursion Fund (CSEF) automatically qualify for a uniform voucher/pack through SSR. Speak to your Principal or School Welfare Officer to apply. Additional uniform assistance may also be available.
Conveyance Allowance Program (CAP): This is financial assistance to help families in rural and regional Victoria with the cost of transporting their children to their nearest government, non-government or specialist school/campus.is also available to eligible students whose nearest school is not serviced by a free school bus. Contact your school for further information.
Student Pass: All full time Victorian students attending an approved school can apply for a Student Pass through Public Transport Victoria. The student pass is a Myki that is cheaper than standard fares. For information call 1800 800 007 or visit the Public Transport of Victoria website.
Travellers Aid: This 100 year old organisation, has a “Pathways to Education” program that provides assistance with travel costs to young people who are experiencing financial difficulties and are at the risk of disengaging with education because of their financial situation. Referrals must be made by the school and the assistance is limited to students who attend secondary education in an alternative setting, (e.g. a community school or TAFE).
Camps, Sports & Excursions Fund: This is financial assistance provided by the Victorian Government and paid directly to the school to assist eligible families cover the costs of camps, sport and excursions. Contact your school for information.
Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme: This is an Australian government program so it works wherever you live. It provides financial help for students who cannot attend a local school because of isolation, disability or special needs that can’t be met by a standard school. You may claim for things like boarding school, distance education or home schooling.
Child Care assistance: The Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR), help with the cost of approved day care, outside school hours care, vacation care, pre-school and kindergarten. These benefits are from the Australian government and work across Australia. On the link you can find out more about eligibility, how to claim and managing the payment.
JET Child Care Fee Assistance (JETCCFA): This is a payment that helps with childcare costs for parents who are undertaking an approved activity such as work, study, training or job search. JETCCFA is only available to those receiving the maximum rate of Child Care Benefit and an eligible income support payment.
Outside School Hours Care: This is before- and after- school hours care for primary school age children. It is available during both term and school holidays and usually also covers pupil free days.This form of care is fully regulated, with trained staff, insurance etc. Talk to your school about what is available.
School holiday care for secondary school students may be available in your area. Check with your local council.
Computers: Many parents find it difficult to afford things like laptops and electronic calculators and many schools make it sound as though you must buy one AND get exactly the one they recommend. This is not true. If parents cannot afford or choose for other reasons not to purchase or lease a device, the school must provide a device for the child during the times it is required at school. Information about the personal devices policy is here
- Low cost and refurbished computers can be purchased from Computerbank: (03) 9600 9161
- WorkVentures ConnectIT: 1800 112 205
Stationery shops are often cheaper than school ordering. Officeworks will price match and even give a small discount if their advertised price is the more expensive.
Shopping online for new or second hand school items such as text books, uniforms and musical instruments can yield some savings. When buying textbooks, make sure you get the right edition. Your school may organise a day to buy and sell second hand books, or you can try these websites:
The Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) administers a range of student scholarships available to primary, secondary and tertiary students.
Smith Family Learning for Life provides support and financial assistance to help disadvantaged children stay at school. The program runs in select disadvantaged areas.
A Start in Life provides financial assistance to disadvantaged students and families to ensure they can access the same learning opportunities as their peers. For information phone (02) 9264 3017.
Opening the Doors Foundation provides education assistance for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in an independent educational institution in Victoria.
The Queen’s Fund
Financial assistance with the cost of educational expenses for children. Applications must be completed by a social worker or a community agency that works with you.
Community Information & Support Victoria is known as CISVic. Some of the members of CISVic are agencies that provide support to families through their Back to School Program. Emergency relief, information and support is also available for families in need.
School Breakfast Clubs offer a healthy breakfast for children in primary schools with a lot of students whose families are doing it tough. You can find the list of participating schools on the link.
More information and resources
Reducing School Costs The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s Money Smart website is free to use. It has information on how to reduce school costs and includes a great online budget planner to help families work out school expenses or to use at any time. You can join up for free and save your calculations or you can download the planner as an excel spreadsheet.
Good Shepherd Micro-finance is a great initiative that has financial programs to assist families on low or limited incomes with educational costs and other expenses. One of their programs is the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) which gives access to fair and safe credit up to $1,200 for essential educational items.
Saver Plus This is financial education and up to $500 in matched savings for education costs for individuals and families who have at least some regular income from work. For information phone 1300 610 355.
Council of Single Mothers and their Children Support line 03 9654 0622 or 1300 552 511 if you are outside Melbourne. You can email difficulties, questions, experiences to us at email@example.com