AIBU to be angry that school expects parents to raise £60k?

(75 Posts)

Our voluntary aided C of England school had built two new classrooms to replace old leaky Portacabins. Important and necessary building work, granted, and we were all pleased that it went ahead. But now, after the fact, we're being told that there's £60k still outstanding and we the parents are expected to raise it.

So AIBU to think this is a bit much to ask? Suggestions are being made that we should ask family and friends to sponsor us for marathons etc. But in this economic climate, I wouldn't fee comfortable asking people to part with money for something as trivial as a school building projects.

WhereMyMilk Sat 23-Mar-13 15:26:29

I don't think it should be down to parents to raise money for capital spends, like in this case-especially after the fact without consultation. PTA's and such like raise money to enhance school experience, not for building!

EggsitPursuedByAChocolateBunny Sat 23-Mar-13 15:28:01

Cheeky feckers!

parakeet Sat 23-Mar-13 15:30:10

YANBU. It is basic financial sense that you do not buy something unless you can afford it. Unless you know where the money is coming from to pay for it. Not to buy it and then ask someone else to help you out afterwards.

Whoever is in charge of finances should be sacked.

stormforce10 Sat 23-Mar-13 15:31:17

I don't think YABU. They should have let parents know BEFORE the event that there was a shortfall. Its not an insubstansial one they can put down to a minor accounting error or being slightly underquoted for the work. Either they've made a major error in which case they should hold their hands up and be looking to every possible avenue for help - businesses,local authority and parents or they knew in advance in which case this is serious mismanagement of funds.

stormforce10 Sat 23-Mar-13 15:32:37

Actuallly either is serious mismanagement but a human error is more forgivable than a cover up

They say the Diocese offered the bulk of the money and they decided to jump on it while they could and, it appears to me, hope for the best for the rest. The PTA are doing a lot of hand-wringing and "but we were only thinking of the children".

LeeCoakley Sat 23-Mar-13 15:34:34

Not sure I agree with the word 'trivial' to describe the replacement classrooms!

The governors are to blame especially the vicar (if he is chair). They shouldn't go ahead without securing funding. Unless they did and either the LEA or the CofE are bickering over their share.

stormforce10 Sat 23-Mar-13 15:38:33

They knew then? IMHO that's verging on criminal fraud. How do they plan to pay the builders? Did they tell them up front - oh by the way there's a £60k shortfall but we'll pay you if and when we can. Or have they diverted the money out of school funds hoping that parents will replace it?

Perhaps they were thinking - ah well 120 children in the school no doubt each parent will fork out £500 and we're sorted hmm

The fundraising committee have actually kept very quiet about it, and just hoping to get there with cake sales etc. But a friend of mine has found out what is really owed, put it on the local mums' FB page and made the very valid point that they have got to think bigger. So she suggested the sponsorship ideas, and everyone is jumping on it. I seem to be the only one questioning how we got to this position in the first place and they're making out I'm just being a mardy cow.

PurpleStorm Sat 23-Mar-13 15:45:01


£60k is one hell of a shortfall. If they didn't have enough money, they should have been working on fundraising before starting the building work.

It's daft to expect parents to magic it up.

I'm glad Mumsnet seems to agree with me. The other mums were making me feel very mean!

grovel Sat 23-Mar-13 15:48:57

How many kids at the school?

hopefloats Sat 23-Mar-13 15:52:23

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Um, 1x R, 3x ks1,6x ks2,so around 300.

MintyyAeroEgg Sat 23-Mar-13 15:53:49

Wowsers! that is a lot of cash shock. Our huge three form entry primary school is considered to have a very successful pta but we only manage to make about £25,000 pa.

Yes, hopefloats, I made it all up. hmm.

I don't know any of the details about how the funding was wrangled, beyond that the fundraising committee need to find £60k.

LittleBairn Sat 23-Mar-13 15:56:42

I would be cross that the undertook the work then basically billed the parents. They should have called a meeting before being honest about the financial situation then discussing how to raise the money.
It makes it sound like the school is badly managed.

complexnumber Sat 23-Mar-13 16:10:09

Personally I find hopefloats account of what actually happened far more plausible.

greenfolder Sat 23-Mar-13 16:13:25

well, it really isnt down to the parents to raise it is it? Has anybody actually asked you to do this from the school? even if i were on the pta and asked to do something towards capital costs, i would refuse. that is what i pay tax for and, in a religious school, what people donate money to the church for.

you dont have to, and if i were you i wouldnt.

IloveJudgeJudy Sat 23-Mar-13 16:40:54

But you know that faith schools have to raise 10% of the costs every year, anyway, don't you? I think hopefloats has it right, too.

Our DC go to a faith school and that's part of the deal, that the government don't fund everything and we have to fund some.

Smartiepants79 Sat 23-Mar-13 16:56:44

Something vaguely similar happened when my school had an extension built. We ended up owing the diocese a lot of money that we hadn't expected to. It was their fault really as they made promises they couldn't keep and changed their mind about how the project would be funded.
We didn't ask parents for it tho'!
I think we are possibly still paying it off.
hope is correct in that there are lots of procedures to go thru before something like this goes ahead. It IS unlikely that they started this project knowing that there was such a huge funding shortfall.
Sounds like maybe it has gone over budget or maybe money that was promised has not materialised.
Money for capital building projects is not really the PTA area.

webwiz Sat 23-Mar-13 17:01:55

But this always happens with voluntary aided schools - only 90% of capital spending will be funded and the shortfall will have to be made up by the school itself. Normally there will be a loan from the diocese to cover the gap and the school will have to repay that.

Yes, I do realise we need to raise a certain amount of money each year as a VA school. This is on top of that.

And I made it quite plain that I know nothing other than snippets on the FB group page as to how this actually happened.

Startail Sat 23-Mar-13 17:09:55

I think the DDs school was still paying for an extension built before DD1 started nursery, so at lest 16years, by the time DD2 left.

But they never asked the PTA.

webwiz Sat 23-Mar-13 17:12:32

Yes but if you need major capital expenditure the school just won't ever have the required 10% hanging around. Money is allocated through a bidding process, if you win the bid you have to commit to the project or the money will go to another school. So yes its on top of what is usually required and the school will probably expect it to take a long time to repay the shortfall back to the diocese.

LineRunnyEgg Sat 23-Mar-13 17:12:34

But the school of 300 primary age children hasn't blown £600k on 2 new classrooms?

(If it has, it's (a) financially incompetent, (b) operating outside of all known governance and capital funding rules, and (c) needs reporting to the Audit Commission.)

I did think that £600k would be one helluva lot for 2 new classrooms. Apparently there are toilets too but still!! smile

Perhaps the fundraising committee (we don't have a PTA as such) have simply taken it on themselves to try to recover as much of this additional cost as possible (however it came about) to help the school pay off the debt. I don't know.

wannaBe Sat 23-Mar-13 17:17:38

yes hope is spot on. they will have believed the funding was secured at the time the project was submitted so somewhere they haven't been given the funding they were promised (probably from the church).

Not saying the op is made up, but that this hasn't been communicated well from whom so ever decided too put it on facebook! hmm

But £60K is an awful lot of cake. grin

And having seen our shiny new OFSTED resport today, I can reveal that I was incorrect, there are only 252 pupils at the school.

(I am so outing myself to anyone from our school! blush)

mam29 Sat 23-Mar-13 17:23:14

Only voluntary aided faith schools have to raise the 10%.

I was pta on va rc primary quite a sucessful one but on good year in affluent area most we could hope to raise was 10k so 60k huge amount.

We also had remit on sort things we should be paying and think classrooms as in new building would be funded by grants , diocese and lea.

we funded computers, committed to new libary and did playequipment.

Im on preschool committee and trying to raise money to build new building and its been going on for years we no where near close to amount we need.

Im not denying shortfall needs to be funded.

but cant see how parents be expected to fund it or they all be leaving in droves.

they need a loan for 60k and fundraise each year but school cannot dictate to pta what they spend money on.

teachers used to give us crazy requests that we turned down.

LineRunnyEgg Sat 23-Mar-13 17:25:11

It's crazy. The school could have rented some nice new portacabins for a year whilst it sorted out its finances properly.

webwiz Sat 23-Mar-13 17:26:04

I think the new reception classroom at DS's school was around £150,000 and that wasn't a permanent building more of a portacabin with a brick outer shell. The LEA wouldn't fund a proper building as it was too expensive.

Sassparilla Sat 23-Mar-13 17:33:30

As a voluntary aided school it is actually the Governing Body who need to raise the 10% of the devolved formula capital and not the PTA. PTA monies raised should be spent on the 'nice to haves' for the studennts and not the fabric of the school.

LineRunnyEgg Sat 23-Mar-13 17:36:46

Indeed, there is something not quite right here and I would suggest that you write to the Chair of Governors and ask the Governing Body to publish the accounts, Annie.

cozietoesie Sat 23-Mar-13 17:42:03

Someone has messed up here at some level. Either eg some funder has reneged or similar - or someone has done a 'What can they do once they're up and being used' (which is sadly all too common in public projects and then people rush around trying to sort the situation after dodgy declarations are made.) Ask to see a breakdown of the project costs and funding submissions - and maybe the accounts for the whole school and not just this project.

Don't pay a penny until you have those to hand.

ProphetOfDoom Sat 23-Mar-13 17:43:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MisForMumNotMaid Sat 23-Mar-13 17:51:10

Whats so frustrating is so many grants and awards are not available retrospectively that you may have been able to apply for in advance.

On that note do you have a governor in charge of finance that could look at major exceptional items in the annual/ three year budget that could possibly be funded by grants instead diverting that money to the buildings work deficit. I.e. major IT investment, subsidy of before/ after school clubs, new schemes that are not on the standard curriculum?

MisForMumNotMaid Sat 23-Mar-13 17:52:41

Or alternatively its a levy of £1/ school week/ child for 6 years.

Well, at the moment it's just some folk (I don't even know if they're on the committee) saying "hey folks, the school owes lots of money for the new classrooms, what ideas do you have to raise it?"

I asked why the classrooms had been built if there wasn't enough money and didn't get an explanation beyond "it's not about debt, it's about the comfort of the children" and the bit about the Diocese stumping up most of the cash.

If they seriously start asking parents to pay, I'm sure I'll have to join a queue of folk asking for accounts and property explanations.

cozietoesie Sat 23-Mar-13 18:06:00

Then someone has raised the topic with them and moaned about the shortfall - probably implying future cuts which may have to be made to fund it. I would ask for the accounts now - or get a copy of the funding application from the funding body if you can. You might not be asked for anything immediately, but if someone has, without consultation, made a speculative application for capital funding and has now been caught with their pants down, you'll pay for it somewhere down the line.

As a former school governor, and one on the finance committee, we would have been hung, drawn and quartered for something like this.

You need to go and ask for the accounts for this project, and also ask to see the budget for running the school.

Capital projects like this should be part of the school's budget and not the responsibility of the PTA. There should be a record somewhere of things like quotes, detailed costings, etc. If there isn't then it's time to start asking serious questions and putting the governors on the spot.

cozietoesie Sat 23-Mar-13 18:12:49

Second that, FryOne.

cozietoesie Sat 23-Mar-13 18:14:26

PS - or if the bulk of the expenditure was not directly part of the school's budget but - say - part of some grant, any expected contribution by the school certainly should be.

Hulababy Sat 23-Mar-13 18:22:23

I doubt they can actually force parents to pay.

I work in an old cabin. They leak. They are really cold unless the heating is set to very high, therefore cost more to have. Ours have asbestos in the walls so we are not allowed to pin or staple anything to the walls. Ours are away from the main building so means children (Y2) have to go to main building unsupervised - for toilet visits, to go to office, to other rooms, etc. We send them in pairs but even so. They are mot a very pleasant environment.

Unfortunately though we can't afford to replace ours.

Bartlebee Sat 23-Mar-13 18:25:02

Our quite small primary (180 kids) recently raised over £50k towards a new playgroup building.

It took less than a year thanks to generous parents and tenacious PTA members.

LineRunnyEgg Sat 23-Mar-13 18:27:04

Good luck with that in the west end of Newcastle.

Our primary school would be lucky to raise £60 in less than 3-4 years, even in good times.

cozietoesie Sat 23-Mar-13 18:41:26

It's not the amount required or the ability of the school to fund raise that's the real issue here - it's the lack of consultation. It smells to me of someone (or a small group) taking a chance and losing. That's no way to run the finances of a school.

SuburbanRhonda Sat 23-Mar-13 18:45:49

It's the VA bit that has caused the problem. The LA has no obligation to fund capital projects in VA schools. The diocese pays 90% and the governors have to raise 10%. This happened in the school I used to work in. It converted to VA, then the £100,000 improvement project that the LA was due to fund was cancelled and responsibility for paying for it passed to the diocese and the school.
I can't believe the building work went ahead without the governors having the money to pay for it, though.

quietbatperson Sat 23-Mar-13 19:50:33

Actually I doubt what hopefloats says about it needing to have been tendered (not the other bit, that makes sense). The OJEU threshold for Works at which you need to run a tender is about 4.3m. Local rules apply with regards to accounting for large expenditure and competition that may come under the thresholds, and a Voluntary Aided school can to a certain extent cock-a-snook at the Local Authority if it so chooses, but if you are only spending £10k then running a full tender would be an expensive way of finding a builder or any service/supplies/works provider.

I think though that suggesting parents should stump up £60k is royally taking the piss, and if this is the line that is actually taken by the school, then I would be talking directly to the Local Authority about the financial management of the school.

sleeplessbunny Sat 23-Mar-13 20:00:12

So are the diocese currently covering the £60k in the form of a loan that will need to be repaid? I find it hard to believe the school is unable to pay its suppliers to the tune of £60k, that would surely result in litigation?
My (limited) knowledge of diocese loans would suggest the timescales for repayment should be pretty generous, so it wouldn't seem unreasonable to achieve through fundraising, over say 5-10 years.

quietbatperson the school may not need to tender, but in order to show financial prudence, the school should at the least be getting a few quotes in for the works. And full costings, including where they think the money should be coming from.

LineRunnyEgg Sat 23-Mar-13 20:41:38

I woudn't get my roof fixed on my house without at least 2 quotes.

LineRunnyEgg Sat 23-Mar-13 20:43:00

Actually, who was the contractor? That should be public information.

Again, just to reiterate I know nothing beyond some idle speculation on Facebook, but you're all giving me good ideas of questions to ask if turns out we genuinely are expected to find the cash through fundraising.

The fundraising committee made £10k last year, which I should imagine just about covers the voluntary contribution with a few extras (wild guesswork based on no facts beyond being told we raised enough to cover the contribution).

cozietoesie Sat 23-Mar-13 21:19:14

Er excuse me, Annie but what do you mean by facts beyond being told we raised enough to cover the contribution......

Aren't the fundraising accounts circulated (or made available) to all parents? Is this some private members' only party going on ?

JWIM Sat 23-Mar-13 22:28:02

Governor of a VA C of E Primary School that completed a building project in 2012/13.

OP - you need to establish facts not 'Facebook' supposition about the amount the governing body has to raise and how they are planning to do it.

As for VA school building/capital projects....

Capital projects like new classrooms are not funded by the Local Authority. The Governing Body makes a bid to their Diocese for funding for the building project. The cost includes the building work, project management fees (can be independent could be LA service bought in) and VAT at 20%. The Govening Body has to contribute 10% of the total cost. A projeCt of the value indicated by a 60k 10% would almost certainly have been subject to tender. I am not surprised the total value is as high as suggested - the rigour of school buildings projects is very different from getting an extension on your house - and I have done both.

Where possible the Governing Body might try to plan for such capital expenditure and accumulate the 10% element in advance. BUT in 2012/13 the funding from the DfE meant the project had to be agreed and completed in the year - including the 10% element being funded by the Governing Body. I can tell you it makes for a few sleepless nights.

I am guessing that the Governing Body decided to take the Diocese grant available - even though they still had the 10% to accumulate - because there was a review of capital spending and no guarantee that the system would continue after 2012/13 or that there would be much in the way of capital for Dioceses. The Diocese may be lending the 10%, the Governing Body may be covering it through the school budget, there may be a fundraising project to meet the 10%.

Our fundraising was supported very generously by local community and school PTA and we have been transparant about funds raised to date.

OP we were fortunate to have the support of our County Council as well as the Diocese - your fundraising committee might approach your County Councillor.

And remember - there are new permanent classrooms for the children and they may not have been built ever had the Governing Body not seized the opportunity.

mameulah Sat 23-Mar-13 22:30:18

YANBU If EVERYONE stopped raising money for charity then it might cause the govenment to bother themselves to be a bit more careful with our money. I think more people should object to stuff like this. It is ridiculous!

cozietoesie Sat 23-Mar-13 22:32:44


..... we have been transparent.......

I think that that is the critical difference here.

JWIM Sat 23-Mar-13 22:40:33

cozietoesie possibly, but my experience is that no matter how many times you say/write it there are still those who seem to see conspiracy/unreasonableness/fraud. As I said at the outset the OP needs to establish the facts first.

Eastpoint Sun 24-Mar-13 03:17:40

I realise the main problem is accountability but here are a few ideas for fundraising.

Does the school rent out its facilities at all? Parties in the school hall at the weekend, renting out tables & chairs for parties, car boot sale in the playground every month.

quietbatperson Sun 24-Mar-13 07:09:55

a tender is not a couple of quotes. I could go on and explain the difference, but I'm boring myself now.

Greythorne Sun 24-Mar-13 07:17:14

Well, if a mum has posted it on Facebook, it must be 100% accurate. No-one ever posts sensationalist, exaggerated crap on FB.

Oh, wait a minute.

DumSpiroSpero Sun 24-Mar-13 08:06:14

Tbh my gut reaction is to give you a biscuit for taking a load of gossip and speculation on FB as gospel, and referring to school building projects as trivial hmm.

Your school obviously has some work to do wrt transparency and consultation at least. I'd be inclined not to judge them on the financial front until you know exactly what's occurred to cause such a dramatic shortfall.

It does sound like someone may need to be called to account over this, but equally I can't help feel sad that people seem to resent raising money for their children's schools/education.

Even in fully LEA funded schools, budgets are ridiculously tight. The one I work at has had to raise £25k for permanent outdoor play equipment, even though Physical Development is part of the national curriculum, because the money simply wasn't there to do it otherwise.

I live in an area where 2 of the 4 local wards are amongst the 10% most deprived in the country, but I have never heard anyone complain about raising money to improve our schools.

mydoorisalwaysopen Sun 24-Mar-13 08:17:42

It sounds like the school has not actually asked the parents to raise the money. The governors have probably decided to run a deficit budget for a while. It might be worth asking what will be sacrificed to reduce the deficit.

Okay two things need clearing up. Yes, all I know at this point is what's being said on FB. Of course I will establish what really happened. But right now it's the weekend so I can't, and having a bit of a rant on Mumsnet about something when you don't know every tiny detail is hardly shocking or new. Lighten up, folks!

Secondly, I was referring to the building as trivial only in reference to asking people for sponsorship. If something asked me to sponsor them for a marathon to raise money for classrooms for middle class children in a leafy London commuter town, I'd fall about laughing when there are so many "real" causes I'd rather support. I didn't mean it was trivial for the school or the children.

Oh, and I imagine the accounts for the fundraising are available somewhere, but I've always trusted that the school knows what it's doing and never felt the need to have a look. Do parents usually inspect the school budget? Should I have been reading it?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 24-Mar-13 08:34:34

YABU. Our local academy recently got a £1m grant for building work and is trying to match that with parental contribs. Some are wealthier than others, contributions aren't compulsory but why shouldn't families want to make a school as good as it can be?

seeker Sun 24-Mar-13 08:40:56

This is not how school funding works. PTAs do not raise money for classrooms. This is a capital project- the funding will have been negotiated between the head/governors and the LEA.

cozietoesie Sun 24-Mar-13 08:44:08

Well there's a thing, Annie. I hear what DumSpiroSpero rightly said about gossip and speculation but, equally, I've known many many situations similar to this - where the financial affairs of an institution or group end up being handled by a small number of people (or an individual) in whom other people place trust, perhaps because they feel overwhelmed by numbers and procedures or overawed by a simple spreadsheet.

That's not to say that the people or person handling the money is going to actually be dishonest but without transparency and clear oversight they can become overly optimistic or politicised (ie they stop looking so critically at the figures and listen rather to 'what so and so says they can do for us'.)

No - one is, I think, saying that you and your fellow parents are averse to fund raising (and I'm not going to address the issue of whether parents should actually have to which is, I think. for another thread) but everyone has the right to know the context in which they're raising funds and to what end.

I'd ask for information if i were you.

seeker Sun 24-Mar-13 09:38:48

The school budget and accounts are scrutinised and approved by the Governors- some of whom are elected by parents to represent them. Fundraising budgets are separate. PTAs are charities and have accounts which should be available for inspection- there should be a treasurer's report at every meeting.

INeedThatForkOff Sun 24-Mar-13 09:46:42

Going back to the OP, I'd be reluctant to sponsor an event benefiting a school's building project.

JWIM Sun 24-Mar-13 13:10:25

Seeker the OP has said that this is a Voluntary Aided school therefore the Local Authority will not be funding capital projects. Capital funding is granted by the Diocese and only to 90% of the total. The Governing Body must pay the remaining 10%. How the 10% is funded is decided by the Governing Body - they may have a regular parent donation to a 'capital projects fund', they may fund through the school budget - possibly running a deficit budget for some years, they may have a Diocese loan that is repaid from the school budget, they may run a fundraising campaign with support from the PTA or separately from the PTA. So a PTA may decide to contribute funds raised for building classrooms but I would expect the PTA to have such a decision recorded in some way.

OP - I hope you are able to establish what has taken place. If you are unclear then it would seem that others could be too and it is perhaps an opportunity for the Governors to set out the circumstances and what funds are still to be raised. You never know, it might lead to a renewed energy for raising money.

And I hope that the new classrooms are being enjoyed by the children and staff.

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