Back-to-school time can also impact hard on the back pocket.

To get an idea of the cost of sending children to school the Northern Advocate obtained a stationery list for a Northland primary school and for a Northland secondary school, then went online and added up the costs of the items on each list.

The total cost from the primary school list, which was for senior students (Years 5 and 6), was around $60 when buying the cheaper items.

The total cost of the secondary school stationery list, which was for Year 9 students, ranged around the $100 mark but this particular school also required students to bring their own devices. The cheaper devices were around the $300 but many were above the $1000 mark.


The Advocate also added the uniform costs for this school and for one of each item (top, bottoms - summer and winter, jersey, shoes, PE uniform) it cost $309.

As back-to-school costs mount, families living in hardship are struggling to provide the essentials for their children. KidsCan's data shows that one in every five children in low-decile schools around New Zealand will head back to class this year without enough food to fuel them.

KidsCan's chief executive Julie Chapman said this time of year can be overwhelming for families on the breadline. "Every day they survive on very little. So there's no money for new stationery, or school bags, or expensive uniforms - many don't even know how they'll afford to put food in their child's lunch box.

"We know when parents feel ashamed that they can't make ends meet, some don't send their children to school. Those that do go, start on the back foot because they don't have the right clothes, and they're hungry."

Chapman said she was seeing no let-up in need, which was putting huge pressure on schools.

"One principal spent her holidays washing lost property to give to families who can't afford uniforms. They're doing so much more than teaching.

"Many schools have stopped asking for fees or donations, just to make sure they get kids in the door. But what they can offer in terms of equipment, extracurricular activities and class size suffers."

Variety's chief executive officer Lorraine Taylor said it had become increasingly clear over the past few weeks just how difficult this time of year could be for families.


"From the numerous requests that have passed [over] my desk to the many calls our team is receiving from caregivers who, quite frankly, are extremely stressed and frantic because they cannot afford to purchase required uniform items and are worried that their children will miss the start of school because of this, it is quite alarming."

Taylor said the charity has found the costs associated with uniforms to be the biggest pain-point with families who are already struggling financially but it has also received many requests for help with stationery and other school-related costs, including school camps.

"This is evident in the large number of school-related claims our team has processed over the past few months. From just November last year, over 44 per cent of all requests for assistance have been for school essentials, totalling $81,862," she said.

"For families already struggling to keep up with everyday costs like rent, power and food, back-to-school expenses for their children are simply impossible to meet. If you can, I implore you to please consider sponsoring a child in need so that we can ensure these children start school confident, with a uniform and supplies."

If you can help sponsor a family, or you are a family wanting to apply for some help, visit