to think if the letter says a voluntary contribution of £x then you don't HAVE to pay

(199 Posts)
PMDD Mon 20-Jan-14 17:53:45

I have 3 children at the same primary school. Since coming back to school in January the school have asked me for a VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION of £14 for DD, £7.50 for DS1 and £5.00 for DS2 (school trips linked to their term topic). They have also asked for £1 for each child for 'arts week' and they have asked for £1 for each child for this Friday's mufti, which is followed by the school valentine disco of £2.50 per child.

That is £40!!!!

Other than mufti and the school disco, which they children don't have to do (although they will be very left out if they come in school uniform), the payment is voluntary. So would I be unreasonable to say that I will give them £5 per child for all the school activities.

I would like to add that my DS1 (year 6) and DS2 (year 4) are both going on school trips in May which cost £350 and £280 respectively, which I am paying £50 a month for since Sept last year!

indyandlara Wed 22-Jan-14 08:07:41

What happens when the planned trip, for example a trip to a travelling exhibition about Vikings, is the basis for class work for the next 2 days? If you choose for your child not to go what happens the next day when they can't write about it when they make a leaflet about the museum/ draw and label the diagram of the helmet/ etc? We do have termly trips at our school. None of them are jollies. They are all linked to the curriculum. They may be fun but that doesn't mean they ate not educational.

I find it interesting that in discussions about whether children should be taken out of school for family holidays, people often say education is not just confined within the walls of schools. However, when the school applies the same logic, taking the children somewhere to enrich their education, it is not on/ thoughtless/ shouldn't happen

WooWooOwl Wed 22-Jan-14 08:15:53

If we choose to send our children to a state school, then we are effectively putting the schools in charge of their basic education. Therefore it's reasonable for us to trust their judgement on whether a trip is going to be beneficial or not.

I agree that parents should be perfectly entitled to opt out of their children taking school trips, and if they do that then those children should still receive an education while the others are off site.

It shouldn't have to be such a big deal though. If the school wants to offer a trip on the condition that parents pay for their own child then that's great, and if parents want to opt out then that's fine. But it's just not going to work like that when schools are expected to be inclusive and are not allowed to exclude children from educational trips.

I think it's very sad that some parents would rather rant about the school spending their money for them than just appreciate that their school is trying to do something positive and enriching for their children. It's as if they think schools do this just to piss parents off and wave a power stick over their finances. It's ridiculous. Some people need to take a step back and think about what schools are actually trying to achieve here.

I disagree that parents should only have to consider what's best for their own children if they have decided to enrol their children in school. If you want complete control over your children's education then don't send them to a facility that has to cater for numerous different families.

HesterShaw Wed 22-Jan-14 08:19:19

I don't think there should be any trips scheduled for January, as it's tight for everyone. Schools should understand that.

However, I'm constantly surprised on MN at the number of people who choose to have several children and who are then all suprised and put out at how much they cost.

Like others have said, it's all about choices. Choosing where to spend/not spend money.

LouiseAderyn Wed 22-Jan-14 08:36:55

Home ed is not a viable option for the majority of parents. It shouldn't be a straightforward choice between doing everything the school dictates or opting out completely.

The school has a right to expect good attendance, punctuality, manners, and for children to be ready for the school day but they also need to be mindful that if their budgets are tight, so are those of many parents.

I am in the fortunate position of having enough money to not worry about replacing, for ex, kids shoes if needed and can afford outside activities for my dc. But my budget is not limitless and I do have to choose what I consider to be the best use of my money. Sometimes schools tend to forget that.

I don't dispute that fundamental intentions are positive. However, that often gets lost in the delivery. I have seen some very demanding and rude letters sent out by schools to parents, written by educated people who ought to be able to compose polite requests. There is often an implication that you have no choice but to do as they 'request' and some teachers think nothing of badgering kids for money, in front of the class.

I do think that schools need reminding that their budget issues are not automatically my responsibility and I do have a right to be selective and involved in what my dc do.

hoobypickypicky Wed 22-Jan-14 09:34:30

I can't think of anything much to say which hasn't already been said by LouiseAderyn. I agree with you wholeheartedly Louise.

My responsibility to my children comes far above any presumed "social responsibility".

revealall Wed 22-Jan-14 16:12:19

Getting back to the Op's post I don't think it's BU.

That's one trip fully paid,one short £2.50 and a third donation towards the last.

I also don't think any curriculum based school trip should cost £14. It's completely unrealistic for low wage families IMO.

The Op has been saving for the £600 odd pounds needed to send two on residential school trips. Can hardly say that no budgeting has been done.

EmmelineGoulden Wed 22-Jan-14 17:11:09

Indyandlara I don't think anyone has said school trips shouldn't happen have they? A few people have said parents should not be required to find whatever money a school decides to spend on trips without their agreement. If schools want to provide a higher standard of education than their budgets allow, they need to make sure they have a consensus on what is a reasonable amount to spend and how to do so, because they don't actually have a right to levy an extra tax on parents in order to do so.

indyandlara Wed 22-Jan-14 17:21:17

There is absolutely no squeeze room for trips in school budgets. There is hardly huge money to buy all the books and consumables needed. One packet of laminating pouches for a year in Infants anyone? If parents did not pay we would simply never leave the building. We go on public transport for all our trips While this keeps the cost down it is an absolute nightmare, especially if you have to be somewhere just after rush hour.

WooWooOwl Wed 22-Jan-14 18:05:55

An extra tax?

Seriously?

Paying for your own child to do something enjoyable and educational is being called a tax?

I honestly don't know what planet some MNers are on. In my world, people pay for their children to do things, they trust the schools judgement about whether something will benefit children, and they are grateful for extra opportunities that school provides.

BoneyBackJefferson Wed 22-Jan-14 18:08:52

This is why I limit the numbers on the trips that I organise. But I still get complaints.

littlepurplealien Wed 22-Jan-14 18:11:46

I wouldn't waste your time WooWooOwl

Can I just offer a round of applause for your last sentence.

LouiseAderyn Wed 22-Jan-14 19:04:41

In my world I pay for my children to do things too. Most of us do.

Not really seeing why I should feel gratitude for activities organised that I haven't been consulted about and am expected to pay for!

merrymouse Wed 22-Jan-14 19:20:50

The thing is number of school trips and requests for cash from PTAs vary widely from school to school. I am not convinced that everybody is arguing about the same situation.

Rosieres Wed 22-Jan-14 21:30:54

A lot of this comes down to managing a budget. If a school has, say, £300K a year to educate the children on their roll then that is their budget. But if they overspend (deliberately or otherwise) and spend £310K they try and make up the shortfall from the parents (who have already paid once through taxation). And so they get the parents to send in £2 here, £5 there, another £10 for this thing and it all mounts up. If the Head sent a letter out and said "we're £10K over budget, would you all chip in for that extra half-time Teaching Assistant post for Year 5" they wouldn't get very far. So the budgeting shortfall comes through extras and parents feel obliged to contribute

This may sound mean spirited to some, but I do some voluntary work in local poverty relief and have seen the situations some families are in. A recent report estimated that 1 in 8 adults in my part of the world (which isn't outwardly hard up) are struggling with debt problems (such as being more than three months behind on mortgage payments). An average class of 30 could easily have 3 or 4 kids from families in that situation. Frequent minor requests for extra cash from parents to plug a hole in the school budget should not be expected of people in such circumstances, but still the schools feel that parents can have pressure put on them to cough up to cover the overspend. The school probably won't know which families can afford it and which ones are near to breaking point financially, but the requests for money still keep coming.

Luckily there are clear guidelines on the charges schools can and cannot issue. In most cases a school is providing education during school hours, so can only ask for voluntary contributions, and when they do they have to state that no child will be excluded if payment is not forthcoming. Sadly schools do not always follow these rules, and the communication (and subsequent chasing up) implies that the money has to be paid or there will be consequences for your DC.

In short, state schools are funded through general taxation and those running the schools need to manage their budgets effectively. If parents wish to contribute more to the budget of their local school they are at liberty to do so. But there are rules in place to ensure that no family feels compelled to pay extra for educational service which the state provides for free, and schools need to ensure that they abide by those rules in their communications and practices.

Pipbin Wed 22-Jan-14 21:41:35

They call it a voluntary contribution because they cannot force you to pay or stop your child going if they don't. At my school part of the pupil premium goes towards the costing of the trip and a breakdown of what your money is going towards and how much of that the pupil premium is funding.

As for the mufti days, maybe don't pay that as what are they going to do? Send them home?

indyandlara Wed 22-Jan-14 21:49:59

Our accounts are audited yearly. If we were fabricating events to boost coffers we would be hung out to dry. The £1s here and there for Children In Need etc go the charities we collect for. Trips are calculated down to the penny. If it costs £3.65 a head, that's what we charge. There is no profit there.

If parents do not contribute towards trips we just wouldn't be going. They can be invaluable but short of me paying ( i have paid for children before), we wouldn't leave the building if parents didn't pay.

indyandlara Wed 22-Jan-14 21:52:58

When we collect for non-uniform days, the money goes in a bucket. No one would know if you contributed 1p or £2.

OddFodd Wed 22-Jan-14 22:15:50

Rosieres - are you in Belgium (I ask because of your name)? Because in the UK, you can't make up shortfalls through parental donations, like indyandlara says. Everything is audited down to the last penny.

Rosieres Wed 22-Jan-14 22:23:52

indyandlara - I wasn't implying that the costs for trips were being inflated to cross subsidise other school activities. I am saying that when budgets are drawn up at the start of the year the school should think through how much it wishes to allocate to contingencies for such trips. If an activity is educational and during school hours parents cannot be compelled to pay, so if teachers are wanting to plan lots of trips they are doing so on an assumption, and unless the school budgets accordingly their plans may come unstuck.

In my DCs school they like to have an opening event and closing event for each half-term's topic. This can often be a trip or bringing in a theatre group or speaker. The school's policy decision to run the curriculum in this way has increased the number of extra activities, so I would expect the school to bear the cost of their decision for how to deliver education. Why should parents, some of whom will have serious financial issues which the school is unaware of, have to pay for the school's policy decision on how it delivers the curriculum?

Rosieres Wed 22-Jan-14 22:31:21

OddFodd - I'm in the UK. My point on shortfalls is mentioned above. If a school decides to increase staffing, say an extra half time TA, or sends the staff on a non-essential training course then this is funding which could have been used elsewhere, e.g. as a contingency for trips and educational activities. I'm not saying that it should, but that budgeting requires you to make decisions. It doesn't surprise me that a head teacher will seek to maximise income, and if that means getting parents to cover some of the costs of educational trips during school time through voluntary contributions then it will free up funds for other things. A rational approach, but it doesn't recognise the pressures on some families, it goes against the principle of state education being free and the request can come through in ways that imply the contribution is mandatory (when schools, like my DC's, don't follow the DfE guidelines).

OddFodd Wed 22-Jan-14 22:53:59

Sorry, I misunderstood. I thought you were implying that schools would sometimes divert funds raised for specific purposes (a charity) to pay for something else.

roundtable Thu 23-Jan-14 09:18:43

Could I make a suggestion that those of you that think their school mismanage their budgets consider running for the governing body? Also those who want a say in their child's trips etc do the same.

I think you need to see how a school is run from within. I get the feeling that we could tell you xyz until we're blue in the face but it wouldn't be understood unless you see it and are part of it.

As an anecdote there was once a parent who would be in most days complaining about how they didn't like the work set for dc, didn't like the behaviour strategies, why should they pay for this trip, why was dc's jumper on backwards at home time...You get my point.

A couple of years of this and the parent got a job as a ta in another school. Suddenly transformed into the most supportive parent. was heard in the playground on days off talking parents that she understood now and this school did a great job.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine what goes on behind the scenes of you're not part of it, I suppose.

roundtable Thu 23-Jan-14 09:20:17

Could I make a suggestion that those of you that think their school mismanage their budgets consider running for the governing body? Also those who want a say in their child's trips etc do the same.

I think you need to see how a school is run from within. I get the feeling that we could tell you xyz until we're blue in the face but it wouldn't be understood unless you see it and are part of it.

As an anecdote there was once a parent who would be in most days complaining about how they didn't like the work set for dc, didn't like the behaviour strategies, why should they pay for this trip, why was dc's jumper on backwards at home time...You get my point.

A couple of years of this and the parent got a job as a ta in another school. Suddenly transformed into the most supportive parent. was heard in the playground on days off talking parents that she understood now and this school did a great job.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine what goes on behind the scenes of you're not part of it, I suppose.

LouiseAderyn Thu 23-Jan-14 09:40:11

I don't think many people believe that schools mismanage their budgets exactly. On the whole, they do a really good job with what they have and the real issue is the government underfunding whilst still expecting a high standard of education to be delivered.

The problem with schools is that they plan events that they don't have the budget to pay for, in the expectation that these costs can be passed on to parents. The 'requests' are often phrased as a demand and in many schools there is little recognition that parent's budgets are also being squeezed and that we might want to be selective as to what we pay for.

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