Head of a cash-strapped state school asks parents to plug budget shortfalls

The Mail is reporting that the head of a ‘cash-strapped’ state school is asking parents to help plug budget shortfalls by making financial donations and even setting up monthly standing orders.

Mark Mallett has written an open letter to parents of children at Chew Valley School near Bristol in which he asks them to dip into their pockets to counter the effect of government spending cuts.

He has already slashed departmental budgets by ten per cent and warned that three-and-a-half teaching jobs will be lost unless more funds can be found.

Mr Mallett asked the parents of all 1,150 students to set up monthly payments or send ‘one off’ financial donations via text message.

Despite parents responding by claiming state schools should not be relying on donations, Mr Mallett defended the move by saying it was reasonable to ask parents with ‘broader economic shoulders’ to ‘lend a hand’ in times of difficulty.

He said: ‘The reason why we’re in difficulties in schools at the moment is that, although the government said that they are going to remain the same in cash terms, what it doesn’t account for is all the additional expenses that have come on in increases of national insurance and pension contributions.

‘So there’s a big hole that’s opened up in all school budgets because of those things and so what headteachers are having to do in difficult times is to make very difficult decisions about where to apply the cuts…

‘Parents are facing austerity as well and in the run up to Christmas it’s not an ideal time but there are parents who do have broader economic shoulders who are able to lend a hand in times of difficulty.

‘Rather than picking and choosing which parents to write to, you send out a general sort of a feel don’t you and there’s a response.’

One mother who has a child at the school – who asked only to be named as ‘Nina’ – said state schools should not be relying on parents for funding.

However, she has started donating £5 a month to the school after receiving the letter…

More at: Head of a cash-strapped state school asks parents to plug budget shortfalls with donations and monthly standing orders

 

Apart from the principle, the fear with this is surely that if will further widen the gap between schools in better-off and worse-off areas.

What do you think? Should schools be doing this? Is there any argument for prohibiting it? 

Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…

 

Should schools be able to ask parents for voluntary monthly contributions?

 

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin every morning (around 7 am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link 

Poorer pupils at isolated schools 'do worse at GCSE'
Generous exam re-marks may give wealthy pupils 'unfair advantage', Ofqual director warns
Categories: Leadership, Parenting, Policy and Secondary.

Comments

  1. thiskidsthinkin

    Busy Mum Same round here. All year round fundraising at primaries are also helping prop up funds. In an ideal world, schools would get all their funding from Government. In a world of austerity however, that isn’t the case.

  2. thiskidsthinkin Busy Mum There’s a difference between a school fete and requesting monthly ‘voluntary’ donations.  The latter are unacceptable and increase the divide between schools where there are a large number of parents with ‘broader economic shoulders’ and those where there aren’t.

  3. This is unacceptable.  Schools are already funded via taxation.  Education is an investment not just a cost.  As such, the cost should be borne by society as a whole – parents should not be asked for ‘voluntary’ contributions.  There is always a subtle pressure to cough up – parents worry teachers will think they are mean or that their children might be treated differently from children whose parents contribute more.

  4. Busy Mum

    Janet2 thiskidsthinkin Busy Mum There is already a huge divide. Inner city schools with large numbers of disadvantaged children get twice as much per pupil per annum from the government as rural schools where the parents have supposedly ‘broad economic shoulders.’ i can tell you now that we don’t.

    Nobody is forced to make monthly donations but it does make more sense to fundraise in this way as donations can be giftaided, unlike the takings at a summer fete, much of which then goes on paying suppliers etc. It’s a good way of diverting some of your tax money into your own child’s school!

    I have said it before and will say it again; the government knows that disadvantage is nothing to do with money.

  5. Busy Mum Janet2 thiskidsthinkin It does not follow that the parents with ‘broader economic shoulders’ are only in rural schools.  Neither does it follow that pupils who attract the pupil premium are only found in inner city schools.
    Education is an investment by society in its future.  It should be properly funded by society and not have to rely on parental ‘voluntary’ contributions.

    You say nobody is ‘forced’.  That’s true but there is a subtle pressure on parents to make these payments.

    What if – now here’s a thought – all voluntary contributions to schools were pooled, say by the LA, and divided equally between local schools?That would have the advantage of treating all schools fairly.  But I think the income generated by voluntary contributions would fall.
    The only fair way is to fund schools adequately through general taxation.

  6. Busy Mum

    Janet2 Busy Mum thiskidsthinkin Here’s a thought – all tax collected by the govt is pooled and divided equally between schools.

    I was not talking about pupil premium; the fact is that inner city schools receive twice as much per pupil per annum than rural schools do. That’s why schools are asking parents for more donations to make up the shortfall.That’s why rural schools are forever begging parents to check whether or not they are eligible for pupil premium. Govt needs to divide the tax pot fairly then schools would not need to ask for voluntary donations.

  7. Busy Mum Janet2 thiskidsthinkin You’re right that all schools should be funded fairly but It’s incorrect  to say inner city schools receive ‘twice as much per pupil per annum’ as rural schools.
    The national median for per pupil spending in primary schools is £4325.  In Manchester the median is £4166, B’Ham is £5340, Peterborough is £4580, Bradford is £4247, Hackney (London) is £6868.
    All the above would be described as cities (although all except Hackney would have inner and outer city schools).
    In rural Buckinghamshire, the median is £5315, in rural Rutland, it’s £4434, in Norfolk it’s £5182.
    This is a rather crude comparison because it’s an area comparison not individual schools.  But it rather undermines your generalisation that inner city schools receive twice as much per pupil pa as rural ones.  Some rural areas (eg Buckinghamshire) receive more than cities (eg Manchester, P’Boro and Bradford).
    (Figures are for grant funding for primary schools in England from School Performance Tables)

  8. Busy Mum

    Janet2 Busy Mum thiskidsthinkin The figures illustrate the point really. My area gets half the national median – it is inevitable that my schools are going to be asking for money – the government either values our children less than those in Hackney or else knows that teachers and parents round my way are superior beings who can achieve the same results with fewer resources….

  9. TW

    Busy Mum But since you obviously made up the bit about disadvantaged schools in inner cities getting twice as much as rural schools, you should state the figure and source for your area, which you claim to be getting only 50% of the national median, or people might think you’re making that up as well.  Could you name any of these ‘superior beings’ or is that just a self-assessment?

  10. TW

    Busy Mum But since you obviously made up the bit about disadvantaged schools in inner cities getting twice as much as rural schools, you should state the figure and source for your area, which you claim to be getting only 50% of the national median, or people might think you’re making that up as well.  Could you name any of these ‘superior beings’ or is that just a self-assessment?

  11. birch_david

    lennyvalentino SchoolsImprove Absolutely: it also partially removes responsibility from where it belongs – the government

  12. TW

    There is possibly an additional aspect to this.  As parents seem to have a reduced commitment to (or possibly time for running or perhaps even attending events organised by) PTAs so some schools have responded by requesting a regular donation in lieu of supporting such activities.

  13. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove I can see more of this happening; the gap between haves and have nots grows. Well played Westminster, again. Groundhog Day?

  14. StudenTeaching

    SchoolsImprove if you don’t ask, you don’t get: no harm done! Unfortunate spin on the headlines doesn’t help PR, but no problem in our eyes

  15. thiskidsthinkin

    Busy Mum Janet2 thiskidsthinkin I suspect a bigger percentage of the school budget goes on school buses in rural areas. In my daughters class (rural area school), three quarters (roughly) come on the bus. When the get to secondary school, 100% of the kids in this area will be on the bus, as we have no secondary school within 6 miles. I know if I’d been asked for a monthly donation, it would have cost less to cough up the £5 per month in the example than what it currently costs. Donations do fall unfairly though, as schools that have better off parents inevitably get more. 
    As we don’t have pupil premium in Northern Ireland, it is hard to compare funding. Schools here with a bigger proportion of free school meals get a bigger amount of money. 
    Of course, not having a free school meal doesn’t mean parents have plenty of money. Once one parent works, that entitlement disappears.

  16. Busy Mum

    @TW Busy Mum I should have said my primary school – not my area. My primary school gets £2600 per pupil per year, (source – chair of govs at a recent meeting with parents held to justify an unwelcome decision) –  slightly over 50% but still considerably less.

    I didn’t say we were superior beings; I suggested that  maybe that’s how the government views our teachers as they manage to achieve just as well, if not more, with very little money. And this school does not ask for any donations either.

  17. TW

    Busy Mum  This – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/332652/Fairer_schools_funding_arrangements_for_2015_to_2016.pdf

    gives minimum per primary pupil funding as £2,880 for 2015-16.

    Of course some schools get more.  That is determined by a formula that even the current government acknowledges to be unfair.  Mr Gove undertook to reform the system in 2010 before delaying it until after 2015 (i.e. election year) so now they are vaguely talking about it again.

    None of that establishes that “Inner city schools with large numbers of disadvantaged children get twice as much per pupil per annum from the government as rural schools”.  Nor that “the fact is that inner city schools receive twice as much per pupil per annum than rural schools do”.  Nor that “it is inevitable that my schools are going to be asking for money” especially as you now say “this school does not ask for any donations”.  Do you have a transcript of what your ‘chair of govs’ said or is this just your interpretation, which may possibly be as accurate as your other claims?

  18. TW

    Busy Mum  This – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/332652/Fairer_schools_funding_arrangements_for_2015_to_2016.pdf

    gives minimum per primary pupil funding as £2,880 for 2015-16.

    Of course some schools get more.  That is determined by a formula that even the current government acknowledges to be unfair.  Mr Gove undertook to reform the system in 2010 before delaying it until after 2015 (i.e. election year) so now they are vaguely talking about it again.

    None of that establishes that “Inner city schools with large numbers of disadvantaged children get twice as much per pupil per annum from the government as rural schools”.  Nor that “the fact is that inner city schools receive twice as much per pupil per annum than rural schools do”.  Nor that “it is inevitable that my schools are going to be asking for money” especially as you now say “this school does not ask for any donations”.  Do you have a transcript of what your ‘chair of govs’ said or is this just your interpretation, which may possibly be as accurate as your other claims?

  19. StudenTeaching

    lennyvalentino If it doesn’t affect children’s individual treatment, it is a true donation? Also it has opened up the issue, not masked it.

Let us know what you think...