The NASUWT teaching union has called on the Labour Party to press for the reintroduction of charging policies to help combat the rising cost of sending a child to school.
The union warned that too often children were being denied access to education opportunities on the basis of their parents’ ability to pay.
Parents were increasingly being asked to fork out for expensive uniforms as well as basic classroom equipment, such as textbooks and electronic equipment including iPads and Kindles, it added.
The NASUWT urged Labour to support its campaign to tackle the growing cost of education for many families by working with schools and bringing back charging policies, which were abolished by the coalition government.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Labour Party conference, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates (pictured) highlighted the union’s research, which showed parents were finding it difficult to meet the rising costs of sending their children to school.
“It has always been a fundamental principle of our great public services that they are free at the point of use,” she added. “The abolition of national guidance on school charging policies and increasing autonomy for schools has allowed schools to charge for educational activities which were previously free.
“The NASUWT has undertaken an annual survey of parents and carers on the costs of education since 2012. The evidence shows that the costs of attending some schools are now acting as a barrier to parents accessing their school of choice for their children.
“Educational experiences that promote opportunity and achievement should not be determined by an ability to pay.”
Also addressing the fringe meeting were Sharon Hodgson, shadow children’s minister, and Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group.
Ms Hodgson said: “All our state schools should be for all our children. We don’t want ghettos of schools for the rich and schools for the poor and that is where we are heading at the moment I believe.”
Ms Garnham added that policies aimed at addressing child poverty and “should not be seen as a cost, but as a saving”.