Stationery prices anger parents

By Sonya Bateson

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A mother says she was asked to pay 42.5 per cent more for her children's school stationery by shopping at a particular store.

A number of Tauranga schools ask parents to purchase stationery items through certain businesses as they receive a cut from the sales.

Welcome Bay's Andy Bryan has two children who attend St Mary's Catholic School. She said her son's list at Bay Office Products had come to $68, while her daughter's came to $46 for a total of $114. After buying the same stationery products from Warehouse Stationery, the two lists came to $43 and $37 for a total of $80. There was a 42.5 per cent difference.

"There wasn't much difference in my daughter's list, but there was a massive one in my son's. We pay heaps to send our kids to the Catholic school, a lot of parents don't care about price but we do. I don't like having my choices taken from me," Ms Bryan said.

She said many parents would have felt obliged to shop at Bay Office Products after picking the list up from the store.

St Mary's principal Ben Fuller said parents had the option of buying things themselves, but most parents chose to buy the packs online or in store.

"The majority of parents enjoy the simplicity of being able to just buy packs. If a parent thought they could get a better deal like this parent did by shopping elsewhere, then they were welcome to," Mr Fuller said.

"It's fantastic she's saved so much money, but they may not be the same items in the pack. I believe we did the right thing by giving parents a number of options."

Mr Fuller didn't believe the difference in price was an issue as the school needed to have a particular supplier for all their office needs and Bay Office Products supplied them at a competitive price.

"When searching for a company that provides stationery packs and delivery, you go with one you have a relationship with," he said. Two other parents from St Mary's said they appreciated having ready-made packs for convenience.

Selwyn Ridge Primary also put its lists online and in particular stores. One mother whose children attended the school said she found it a pain that she couldn't buy items directly from the school and said parents should have the option to shop around. Another said the stationery prices were more expensive at Selwyn Ridge than other schools.

Selwyn Ridge principal Craig Price said parents could still get stationery lists from the school office or from Office Max and they had always been available.

Mt Maunganui Primary principal Damien Harris said his school bought stationery items in bulk at a good price and assembled packs themselves, although parents still had the option of getting a stationery list from the school.

"We go with convenience for our parents and what we believe is a cheaper price for our parents but it's a school-by-school choice," Mr Harris said.

Otumoetai Primary principal Geoff Opie said stationery packs were available from the school as that ensured students got the correct gear but as it was a tough time of year financially for many people, the school had no problem with parents shopping around.

The Warehouse has asked parents to tell it about instances of schools insisting they buy certain stationery packs and refusing to give out stationery lists.

Warehouse Stationery and Warehouse chief executive Mark Powell said so far the response had been strong, with many parents saying schools were being excessively prescriptive.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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