In less than two weeks, my first-born will start school.

It's a milestone, but she is ready and excited. And I am feeling quite confident in leaving her in the hands of a teacher I have met only twice, but who seems to have the patience of a saint and the extraordinary enthusiasm that someone spending five days a week with a heap of 5-year-olds would need to survive.

This week, we picked up the school stationery required for new entrants. It cost almost $60, a figure I was expecting, and which probably is quite cheap considering it's for an entire year of education during which my daughter will learn to read.

How it works at our school is that when you buy your books, you also buy a stack of pens and glue sticks and crayons, which the teacher holds on to and puts out as needed for communal use in the classroom.


Where I have become a little emotional is seeing some of the detail on this list.

In particular, the purchase of five whiteboard marker pens.

In a new entrants' classroom in a high-decile school, each child is bringing five marker pens into the classroom. I believe this class is going to have about 18 pupils.

Some quick math reveals that if all children bring these, this classroom of 18 tiny 5-year-olds will have 90 – yes NINETY – whiteboard markers.

Yes, I know not all children will bring communal pens, but let's say just half the children contribute to the communal supply - that is still 45 whiteboard markers.

Now, I'm not exactly in the know of how long a whiteboard pen lasts but what the hell are they doing with these pens?

The four glue sticks each, I can understand. Those things run out pretty quickly. Four Bic pens, yip, I get that too. But whiteboard markers?

Is there a black market for whiteboard pens that only teachers know about? Is this what goes on on the dark web?


Some lids will be left off and they will dry out, sure. And yes, it's property around young people, so some things will go missing, but these pens are controlled by the teacher.

If you're losing this many pens or letting so many dry out then surely something somewhere has gone very, very wrong.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she informed me one of the local colleges requires pupils to pay for 10 marker pens each. Ten!

Is it just me, or does this seem a lot?