YESTERDAY was the first day of a new school term for many. A mixture of excitement and nervousness enveloped kids all across Wanganui.
But many parents had already been taught a good lesson during the holidays - start saving early to pay for those uniforms. With two boys starting at new schools, and with the regulations for their continued education dictating they had summer and winter outfits - and, of course, there's the requisite standard sports gear - our bill was around $1100. That's a big "ouch".
Uniforms are a good thing. They, hopefully, instil some pride in their school among the children and they certainly avoid some of the competitive peer pressure to look cool and fashionable. And, it must be said, the clothes are smart and of good quality. But must they be so expensive? One wonders what the profit mark-up is.
Parents already understand that our free education service is not exactly free. The school "donations" see to that - "donations" that have to be paid unless you want your child missing out and potentially ostracised.
There's no way of getting out of that sizeable bill for the new school uniform. If you are clever enough you can avoid income tax, but you can't avoid this "education tax". It's "pay up or your child will suffer".
Our schools have to battle with the budget the same as anyone else - good fiscal management is a key quality in any aspiring principal - and most of us appreciate the extra-curricular opportunities schools provide so don't mind forking out a bit extra. But too often we seem to be paying for the educational basics, and I would put the uniform in that category.
The Government has found a chunk of change to motivate and reward high-performing teachers. Wouldn't it be nice if they could find a bit more and take some of the financial strain off parents?