i Editor's Letter: Back to school expenses


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The Independent Online


Those rituals of the last week of the school summer holiday: being dragged around John Lewis to find sensible shoes (“no, NOT Kickers”); Mum cutting green Oliver name labels from PE kit and sewing in the  blue William ones; spending a few days in Dad’s care while he charred sausages for tea and built Lego.

A modest sum would be spent on back-to-school kit. Occasionally, a new lunchbox was treated to a game of playground football. The protractor and compass were, on the first day of term, separated – the latter last seen sailing through the stale air of Geography Period 5.

The cost of equipping kids to return to the classroom is rising. A child starting school next week will leave in 2026, and touchscreen tablets are making their way into backpacks, whether we like the price or not. John Lewis expected to sell twice as many tablets as desktop computers in the past fortnight, at a rate of about two devices a minute.

At some schools, parents are being asked to foot the bill – to howls of outrage, with warnings about security and two-tier classes where some parents cannot afford them.

Others, like Bolton School, are giving their pupils iPads to help with work. Every child at Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock, Renfrewshire, has been armed with an iPad. Homework is sent and received via email, reducing excuses. Teachers there credit the devices with  allowing more experimentation and helping to make lessons interesting.

Tablets are an expensive investment – but one that will pay in the long run. Schools need to find ways of levelling the playing field for those parents unable to shell out ever-larger wodges at the start of term.


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