Schools 'depending on parents' direct debits'


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Schools have been turning to parents to help with funding

Almost one in five parents in the UK are being asked to set up payments to their schools, as head teachers warn of budget shortages, says a survey from a teachers’ union.

The NASUWT survey claims some parents are asked for £400 or more per year.

Schools in England have been warning of cash shortages and the union says schools are now depending on parents.

But the Department for Education says “no parent is required to make a contribution”.

Teachers’ unions are holding their conferences over the Easter bank holiday weekend, with funding one of the biggest causes of concern.

Direct debits

The National Union of Teachers, meeting in Cardiff, will hear on Saturday from teachers and parents groups warning about the impact of cash shortages.

The NASUWT survey, to be presented at the union’s Manchester conference, claims that schools are relying on parents’ ability to pay extra.

Based on almost 4,000 responses, the survey says that 18% of parents have been asked to sign up for direct debits or standing orders to make payments to their children’s school, typically of about £50 per year.

But more than one in 20 parents with children in state schools were paying £400 or above.

A further 13% of parents had been asked to make donations to the school in cash or cheques.

There were other financial costs for parents, such as providing a laptop or other computer equipment for homework as well as extra lessons such as learning an instrument.

“We have not allowed them to do music at school as they need to provide their own instruments,” said a parent, quoted in the survey.

Over a quarter of parents said their child had been unable to take part in a trip or excursion because of the cost.

“Ski trip was £600. French trip £450. These are for less than a week. They are beyond my funds,” a parent told the survey.

And almost a quarter said that their school choices had been influenced by concerns about potential extra costs from some schools.

The union’s leader Chris Keates said that “access to education must not be based on parents’ ability to pay”.

Record funding

This week the Sutton Trust education charity warned of widening staff cuts because of financial pressures on schools.

The Public Accounts Committee has said that the need to cut £3bn from school spending is a threat to standards.

A lobby of Parliament over funding, with other unions and campaigners, has been announced for early June.

Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary, said he wanted the government to invest substantial sums in schools in the next Budget.

“We want to draw attention to the fact that in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, there is a promise to parents that the money that follows their children into schools will be protected,” he said.

“In half of the schools in the country the money following your child into schools has been dramatically cut in cash terms, and in the other half it’s been cut in real terms.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “No parent is required to make a contribution to their child’s education, the rules are clear on this and no policies have been introduced by this government to allow schools to charge parents.

“School funding is at its highest level on record at almost £41 billion in 2017-18 – and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise over the next two years, to £42 billion by 2019-20.

“We recognise schools are facing cost pressures and will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways.”



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