Free state education to cost parents £22,250 per child

Teacher and children

The average cost of sending a child to a state school has risen to more than £22,500 per child – despite state schools offering 'free' education.

The figure, published in Aviva's wide-ranging family finances survey of 18,000 people, indicates that while the cost of educating children has risen, so has the average family debt, which now stands at almost £13,000.

Between the ages of four and 18, a child's state education will cost an average of £1,614 a year of £22,596 in total. This includes "educational extras" such as transport, food, breakfast clubs and after-school care, school uniform, sports kits and other necessary expenses.

Out of school care was the biggest expense, costing £558 a year, followed by food at £379, transport costs of £369, and school uniforms at £108.

While even the necessary expenses make for unpleasant reading for many cash-strapped households, the cost of extra-curricular activities add considerably more to parents' costs. Music lessons alone can add an extra £480 a year, sports activities cost £327 a year, and school trips will set parents back £120 a year.

But while education costs are rising, so too is household debt. A 16% increase in unsecured borrowing in the first half of 2013 has resulted in typical household debt of £12,834 – up from £10,563 in August 2012 and beating the previous record (£11,101 in January 2013) seen by Aviva in its Family Finances Report.

Credit cards remain the most common choice for families with unsecured borrowing, but one in 20 are now using payday loans, Aviva found.

Addess your pressing needs

Louise Colley, protection distribution director for Aviva, said: "Building a savings pot is a fantastic step, but if debts are growing, families need to consider which is the more pressing need."

StepChange Debt Charity's head of policy Peter Tutton added: "That 5% of families now rely on payday loans highlights how for a substantial proportion of the population simply meeting essential living costs is becoming increasingly unaffordable."

"While the increase in average incomes should provide some respite for families' finances, the reality remains that we are seeing increasing numbers of people falling behind on essential bills like rent, gas and electricity and Council Tax. It is therefore crucial that anyone struggling financially seeks advice and support at the earliest opportunity".

The Aviva report was published on the same day that a survey by Santander found that parents spend £537 a month raising their children.

Two fifths (41%) of parents told Santander it's "almost impossible" to be financially prepared for the cost of raising a child, with 5% claiming they wouldn't have had a child if they had known how much it would cost to raise it.

Childcare costs parents £186.63 a month, Santander said, followed by food and drink at £129.18, child maintenance and payments at £117.97, and transportation costs of £59.58 a month.

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