As schools experience a rise in costs and a reduction in funding, the pressure to raise funds by alternative means is growing, with many asking parents to contribute financially. So what do schools need to consider before ‘making the ask’?
Firstly, schools should ensure that a charging and remissions policy is in place. This policy should outline the basis of voluntary contributions and should be published in a manner that is easily accessible to parents.
Schools have a duty to explain that all contributions are voluntary, and parents do not have to contribute if they do not wish or if they cannot afford to. Additionally, if an activity or service relies solely on voluntary contributions and cannot go ahead without sufficient contributions, schools should inform parents from the outset.
Voluntary contributions are just that – voluntary – and schools should avoid sending letters which imply that the contribution is compulsory or even an expectation. Schools should be sensitive to the fact that not all parents will be in a positon to contribute or may choose not to.
When asking for voluntary contributions, it should be made clear that irrespective of whether a parent contributes or not, their child/children will not be excluded from any activities funded fully or partially by voluntary contributions.
In theory, schools can ask for voluntary contributions towards any aspect of school life, but there are strict restrictions on what they can charge for. Essentially, schools are not allowed to charge for educational services and equipment provided during school hours. These should be funded from the school budget.
Beyond that, schools can ask for contributions towards any educational material or equipment that has been requested by the parent (s) of a pupil and anything that is considered an optional extra. Officially, the Department for Education considers any educational activity or service provided outside school hours that is not “part of the national curriculum; part of a syllabus for a prescribed public examination that is being prepared for at school; or part of religious education” to be an optional extra.
The FundStar team
6th February 2019