Today’s school lesson — how to beg off parents

Writing in the Evening Standard, Lucy Tobin looks at the pressures created by schools asking parents for financial donations…

It starts with a few notebooks. Parents are emailed: “The funding pressures are great, we’d love to get all students aceing every exam but we can only do so if you start stumping up £2 a term for new notebooks.”

In most households, with just a small sigh, that £2 is coughed up, and life goes on.

Next term, another request: this time it’s textbooks. £20 each, please, or more if you can afford it.

Then there’s a need to boost the library, buy more school laptops, or pay for a trip. And so it goes on, until some state schools are now asking parents for regular donations totting up to more than £500 a year, according to the latest Good Schools Guide, published this week.

One school has a monthly £13 iPad “tax”. Tiffin grammar school in Kingston has a “suggested contribution” of £520 a year for each child — or an annual £2,000 for any parent stupid enough to offload a cluster of kids in close succession.

The West London Free School has secured almost £70,000 from monthly parental donations in the two years since it opened. Some parents love the idea. “They prefer to pay by standing order or by handing over £50 at the start of term than bother with fêtes, raffles, cake sales and the like,” said a Good Schools Guide editor…

School “requests” may be voluntary but they also can invoke a hefty dose of guilt. In Barnet, Queen Elizabeth’s Boys School says most parents contribute £60 a month: “We say to them, if you want to have a sound education and provide the polish for boys to go to the best universities, you can’t do it on state funding.”

If that’s the case, all schools need to prove it; then, the electorate and the Government need to decide what to do next. Means-tested payments? Higher taxes? Both options are unpalatable. Non-parent taxpayers might well decree that schools should continue tapping families for what are effectively top-up fees.

But that’s a national decision to make. It’s not for headteachers to try to top up any shortfall from parents brought up to believe their taxes would pay for state schools…

More at: Lucy Tobin: Today’s school lesson — how to beg off parents

We touched on this issue last week but how widespread is the practice of asking parents for voluntary contributions? And is it right? Or is Lucy Tobin on the money by suggesting this is something that needs to be discussed and decided upon on a national level before individual schools take their own action? Please give us your opinions in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Parenting.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This will happen more as school budgets squeezed & HT/teacher shortages drive up wages in some areas due to govt policies

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