A new school year can put lots of pressure on families’ budgets, especially when children are starting new schools.

Between school uniforms, PE kits, school lunches and the need to travel to school on a bus, the costs soon add up.

At a time when many families’ budgets are already very stretched by the rising cost of energy, food and accommodation, some parents will be asking themselves how they are going to cope with these extra outgoings.

The good news is that there is help available. A good place to start is the Citizens Advice website, where you will find lots of information on the support parents might be entitled to for school-related costs: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/education/help-with-school-costs/.

The help you can get to cover school lunches varies, depending on how old your children are and whether you claim benefits.

Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 automatically get free school meals.

You can apply for free school meals for older children if you claim certain types of benefit, including Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Income Support. The full list is available on the Citizens Advice website.

Help may also be available with travel costs, though this is much more limited. If your child is under eght and their nearest suitable school is more than two miles from their home, or eight and over and the school is three miles away, then free transport will be provided.

If your child cannot walk to school because of special education needs or disabilities, they may also be able to get free school transport.

This is the case if their Education Health and Care Plan states that transport should be provided, with other cases are decided on an individual basis by the relevant education authority, which for the St Albans District is Hertfordshire County Council.

Hertfordshire County Council also offer half price bus travel and other benefits, such as help towards music lesson costs, to children in Year 3 or older if they are eligible for free school meals or if they are in a family receiving certain benefits. A link to check availability and to apply can be found on its website.

Hertfordshire County Council does not provide school uniform grants, but some schools may be able to help either with grants or with second-hand clothing.

Check with the school itself, or with its Parent-Teacher Association. There are also local charities that may be able to help.

A lot of families are feeling the squeeze at the moment, but it’s important to remember that help is available with school costs.

For more information, visit the Citizens Advice St Albans District website: https://citizensadvicestalbans.org.uk/family-support/.

If you are still not sure what to do, or if you think you need tailored support, we can be reached on 01727 811118 from 10am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 10am to 1pm on Friday.