TECHNOLOGY has created an added impost on struggling south-west families with a number of schools requiring parents to buy laptops or tablet computers.
The state’s peak parents group has questioned why students need textbooks at schools where portable computers have become mandatory, saying administrators need to choose between online and the printed word.
South-west families have to fork out more than $800 in uniform, textbook, stationery and other non-technological expenses for a daughter or son starting year 7 this week.
Research by The Standard shows the average cost of a full uniform was more than $500 for girls and roughly $450 for boys starting their first year at a government high school in 2014.
Computers were the most expensive item required at south-west schools, setting parents back at least $400 for the latest portable computer.
Winter skirts were the costliest item of apparel at $125, although some of the region’s private and Catholic schools require its students to wear a blazer costing about $200.
The figures are based on the purchase of one shirt or polo top, although most families buy more than one garment. Sports shoes are not listed but are required for physical education classes.
Parents Victoria spokeswoman Elaine Crowle said while uniforms and textbooks remained similarly priced compared to 10 years ago, the added costs of computers had stretched many family budgets.
“The biggest change we’ve seen in the past decade is that many schools now require electronic devices like laptops or iPads in class,” she said.
“The problem is not only the expense but that parents are still required to buy half-a-dozen textbooks.
“Parents would rightly expect that if you’re paying all this money specifically for a laptop, then the material in the textbooks would be available electronically on the computer.
“Having this double-up is creating unnecessary expense, especially for the families who struggle to make ends meet.”
Year 7 students are also required to attend an annual camp at most south-west government and private schools, with such excursions usually coming with a price-tag in excess of $150.
Extra-curricular activities such as music and sport have not been included in The Standard’s overall year 7 student expense figures.
“Many parents want their kids to have a well-rounded education that includes either getting involved in a sport or playing a musical instrument,” Ms Crowle said.
“For those that are struggling with covering the required costs, taking part in an extra-curricular activity is just beyond them price-wise.”