Rhonda Coyne and her son Jamie with all the expensive school supplies they've had to purchase.

Mounting costs: Rhonda Coyne and son Jamie with piles of necessities bought for the school year. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Starting secondary school can be a landmark chapter in a child's life, but for their parents it can be a different story.

For some, the cost of educating a child is alarming.

Costs include fees, levies, uniforms, stationery, textbooks, school bags, art and craft materials, sports equipment, travel, computers and internet access. Then there are extracurricular add-ons such as excursions, camps, private tuition, music lessons, instruments, coaching and other optional activities and electives such as sport, drama and art classes.

The Australian Scholarships Group estimates that a student attending a state secondary school in Melbourne this year will incur costs up to $1149 in fees, $1312 for extracurricular activities, $415 for clothing, $385 for travel, $749 for computers and $486 for necessities.

Unemployed single mother Rhonda Coyne is furious about how much it will cost to send son Jamie to Mill Park Secondary College.

Ms Coyne estimates she will pay more than $4000 this year, including his uniform, compulsory school bag, textbooks, essentials, library fees, laptop, excursions and a camp. ''It's disgusting - it's $400 for three days. It's in Kinglake, not even an hour's drive away.''

She said Jamie's schooling costs exceeded those of her two older daughters, now 15 and 22.

She also criticised the federal government's new Schoolkids Bonus. The annual $820 bonus for each child in secondary school is paid in January and July in two equal instalments.

But Ms Coyne said the first instalment was of little use. ''It didn't even cover the textbooks.''

The estimated cost of sending a child to a Melbourne Catholic secondary school this year is $11,981, including fees of $8430, $1309 for extracurricular activities, $492 for clothing and $726 for computers.

The cost of a Catholic education is familiar for Margaret Maslin, whose son Jack will be in year 12 at the Christian Brothers' College in St Kilda this year.

He has been at the school for six years. Ms Maslin said fees had doubled over that time because of federal government funding cuts.

They at least are not starting from scratch, with Jack already in uniform and using a free computer obtained under a government scheme. A partial scholarship has also helped, with Ms Maslin paying $4000 in school fees instead of $7000. ''It has helped me enormously, being a single parent.''

But other costs are still there such as $600 for textbooks, $100 for stationery, $120 for new shoes and $400 for the train to and from their Yarraville home.