Participatory budgeting

'Cost of the School Day' Project

An innovative Midlothian project, aimed at reducing the disadvantage poorer families experience in meeting the cost of the school day, has seen high levels of participation from children, their families, parent council members and school staff.

About the project

With financial support from Scottish Government Community Choices and Midlothian Council, the project used Participatory Budgeting as a method to work with local people to decide how resources would be spent. The project ran throughout 2018.

This involved working with 11 primary schools in the council’s 3 priority areas: Mayfield, Woodburn and Gorebridge.  Projects were developed by children aged 8 to 12 (using the Child Poverty Action Group ‘Cost of the School Day clock’), Parent Council representatives and school staff.

Decision making events

The projects were promoted through parent night events, school assemblies, staff briefings, school newsletters, text messaging and social media. Decision-making events were held on parent’s evenings and at school events such as sports days and concerts. Participants were able, discuss , deliberate and then make decisions in a variety of formats including voting online (Survey Monkey), using iPads, good old ‘sticky dots’ and ballot papers.

Funded projects

Participants up came with a diverse range of ideas for projects that would reduce the cost of the school day.  Some focused on supporting or providing resources for the most disadvantaged families while others were supported universal provision (subsidy for school trips)

Gorebridge area

  • 'Resources support for provision of learning activities’
  • ‘Resources to develop cooking courses/skills’
  • ‘Support to reduce the cost of Christmas activities in the school’
  • ‘Breakfast Club and Active Schools clubs and events’
  • ‘Fruit for every child'
  • Subsidy for the cost of school uniforms'

Mayfield area

  • ‘Two free events organised by the Parent Council’
  • ‘Free Fruit Friday’
  • ‘Homework Club 2 evenings a week’
  • ‘Subsidise visiting theatre group’
  • ‘Football Kits (boys and girls) + Laundry’
  • ‘Support for a Homework Club’

Dalkeith area

  • ‘Support funding for school camp’
  • ‘School uniform support’
  • 'Support a visiting sensory show (i.e. African drumming group)’
  • ‘Crafty Box - Craft materials for use throughout the school’
  • ‘Snack Baskets’
  • ‘Waterproof jackets and wellies’
  • ‘Setting up a thrift shop’

Experience and knowledge

The programme enjoyed high levels of involvement from the school community. Children, their families, parent councils and school staff have all been involved and welcomed the opportunity to use their experience and knowledge to inform the content of potential projects and to have a direct impact on the way funding has been spent.

Positive impact

There were 109 project proposals, with 62 successfully receiving funding as result of local people’s involvement in the decision making process.  Across the 3 priority communities, a total of 2,639 people, including children in classes P4 to P7, their parents, carers and school staff, voted.  A total of £72,999 has been allocated to projects that will have positive impact on the lives of young people and their families.

More information

Call Communities Officer, Paul Johnson, on 0131 270 6744 or email