School costs

Many school students go back to school this week. Others start next week. All primary schools have to be open for 384 half-days; high schools 380 half-days. If a school starts in January, it can finish earlier in December.

At this stage of the year, some parents have difficulty finding money for school uniforms and stationery. Some schools also expect parents to provide their child with an electronic device like an iPad. During the year, parents are asked to pay for school donations, school trips and sports trips. On average, parents whose children attend a state school for the next 13 years can expect to pay $38,000 in total for these extra costs.

Most schools have a second-hand uniform shop which reduces the cost of uniforms. Some primary schools do not have a uniform although most do. Schools cannot force parents to pay the school donation and schools in poor areas do not receive many donations. However, these schools receive more government funding.

However, state schools are cheap in comparison with private schools which could cost around $320,000 over 13 years. Parents pay most of the costs for teachers and buildings although the government pays a small amount. In New Zealand, only 3.7% of school students attend a private school and most of those schools are associated with a church.

Listen to February 1st 2011 to hear more about the start of the school year.


• At this stage of the year – only a month after Christmas which is usually an expensive time for families
• finding money – this is an idiom and refers to budgeting; not enough money for everything
• stationery – exercise books, pencils etc


• have to be open – must be open (There is really no difference in this case.)
• are asked to pay – passive. An active sentence would be: ‘The school board asks parents to pay’ but we are not interested in who asks. The focus is on parents instead.