Lessons in maths for parents

WITH about 63,000 children set to head back to Tasmanian schools today, parents may be feeling a sense of relief as well as a lighter wallet.

According to figures released by The Smith Family, the average family with two children heading to primary school for a year could expect to fork out just over $2000 for each child.

However, if you have a child heading to high school or college, expect to pay much more as, according to the Australian Scholarships Group, it can set you back as much as $3500 over the year.

For Mayfield parents Nicole and Phillip Dean, getting four of their five children equipped, dressed and fees paid for today has cost a small fortune _ and by the end of the year it could amount to about $12,000.

With two at the new East Tamar Primary School _ Sharlette, 7, in grade 2 and Alex, 9, in grade 4 _ one in high school and one starting college, Mrs Dean believes they would have paid out a few thousand dollars in the past couple of weeks.

Mrs Dean said her son Jamie's grade 10 Brooks High School fees were $480 and included all books and any field trip costs, and eldest child Brad's grade 11 Launceston College fee was $380. This did not include any text books, however, many other costs were not yet covered such as for specific subjects and transport.

She said the federal Back to School bonus had made it possible for the family to prepare for school but with the possibility of it being cut mid-year, she was unsure how they would cope.

The Smith Family's state general manager Alison Standen said the real costs facing families was ``alarming''.

``Before your child even walks in the front gate the average parent is looking at spending more than $700 on uniforms, shoes and stationery _ and that's a conservative estimate based on the least expensive purchases at nationally accessible chain stores,'' Ms Standen said.

The Smith Family is calling for a national study to identify the cost of public education and assess the impact on families.

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