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"Voluntary"; contributions at Voluntary Aided schools

(6 Posts)
easterbonnets Mon 31-Mar-14 10:40:15

My DCs attend our local Church of England school. It is Voluntary Aided, which means that every September we're asked to contribute £40 per child towards exterior maintenance costs. The letter says that the payment is the direct result of our choice of a church school, although we actually only chose it because its our nearest school, not because its a church school, and there was no mention of the payments when we applied for our DCs places.

Last September we were under some financial strain so I didn't make the payment straight away, and then forgot about it. Now I've had more letters. Each DC brought one home in their book bags on brightly coloured paper, with their names on the top. They weren't in envelopes, so they were pretty visible. The letters say that their records show we haven't paid yet, and that they'd be grateful if we would pay as soon as possible.

We'll pay up, but I have to say I'm a little taken aback by the tone of the letter. Why are these schools called "Voluntary Aided" if there is nothing voluntary about the payment? I realise that church funds aren't flush with cash, but if school maintenance is being covered in this way, surely that makes the schools semi-private schools, not church-supported schools? What would happen if the roof needed mending and there wasn't enough in the kitty? Would the Local Authority step in to cover it?

meditrina Mon 31-Mar-14 13:11:43

I think the school is inadvertently (or possibly deliberately) misleading you.

The payments the are asking for are nothing to do wit being a voluntary aided school - which is is a state-funded school in England and Wales in which a foundation or trust (usually a religious organisation), contributes to building costs and has a substantial influence in the running of the school. Such schools have more autonomy than voluntary controlled schools, which are entirely funded by the state. In most cases the foundation or trust own the buildings.

Also VA schools have to pay 10% of their own capital costs, and this usually means fundraising by the school (and/or the Parish). And no, the LEA does not step in to cover any shortfalls.

However it is totally legal for any state school (whether VA or not) to ask for donations. This is set out in law.

They cannot however demand payment, harass families,or treat pupils differently based on whether or not the family has made a donation.

Asking once, and perhaps sending one reminder, is unlikely to amount to harassment. It sounds as if your school may be going beyond the reasonable (as handing out distinctive letters publicly to e children could be considered unfair) and you find the time inappropriately demanding.

Octopusinabunchofdaffodils Wed 02-Apr-14 17:32:20

We get a reminder after a term. If we let the school know that we can't afford it then they take us off the reminder system. They have now put in place a system so we can pay £3 a month, we can pay quarterly or annually as well if it suits us better.

NigellasDealer Wed 02-Apr-14 17:35:04

tell them you cannot pay and remind them that it is a state school.
'voluntary aided' does not mean that they extort money from families.

nonicknameseemsavailable Wed 02-Apr-14 21:03:05

ours can be paid monthly or in one go and is per family not per child.

any reminders seem to be sent to ALL families not just those who haven't contributed and the letter states clearly if people are unable to pay then they can talk to the head as this is understood.

easterbonnets Thu 03-Apr-14 21:45:01

Our school pays into a maintenance fund, run by the Diocese, which sounds like a sort of insurance scheme. They have to pay in a certain amount per year, and then it covers any repairs. The letter says its just for maintenance of the outside of the buildings, but then it gives examples of projects like kitchen refurb which are inside projects.

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