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Swimming lesson charges

(22 Posts)
PrimaryConcern Mon 31-Oct-16 13:38:24

The school has recently introduced a charge of £2.50 per lesson (I am happy to pay this btw). Someone told me they can't legally charge, but I can't find anything to back that up. As much as I don't resent the charge, the school has been pretty poorly managed of late which is why I'm interested in the legalities.

The pool is within the school grounds so no transport costs. Lessons used to be free as the school own the pool but a 3rd party company managed it and part of the agreement was free lessons. The management company has changed and thus a charge has been introduced. It is specified as to cover staffing.

BackforGood Mon 31-Oct-16 19:09:37

My understanding with all things charged for by the school, it is always a "voluntary contribution" and that those who don't pay can't be left out if it is part of the curriculum (as opposed to a club they opt in to after school). However if they can't meet the costs then the school can 'not do' whatever it is they are charging for (usually trips, or 'experiences' bought in to the school).
It's unusual to have a pool on site, so I'm not sure how that affects it. I also think it depends a bit on if the swimming lessons are of any use to your child. If they are then £2.50 is a real bargain, however, because my dc were already doing swimming club training when the school took them, it was a complete waste of about 1/3 of the day when they went, so I'd feel a bit miffed at being asked to pay for it too!

GraciesMansion Mon 31-Oct-16 19:14:09

Swimming is part of the curriculum, they're not allowed to charge for it.

SternlyVoice Mon 31-Oct-16 21:28:26

My dd's school has a pool on site and the school has a private swimschool maintaining the pool and providing lessons. We are not charged for lessons. The PTA, however, does raise funds for the school and has funded the pool's re-furbishment recently. So, we do contribute, although not directly for lessons and it is voluntary.

PrimaryConcern Mon 31-Oct-16 22:16:55

Thanks for the replies.

The letter is quite clear it is a charge, not a voluntary contribution and it's already been added on the online school pay system. I don't think the DC get much out of the lessons, but I wouldn't want to cause any embarrassment about not paying and not doing the lessons isn't offered as an option from what I can see. They have also added a charge for a trip that they haven't sent any letters out about, which really hasn't helped as I logged in and discovered I currently owe the school over £80! (2 DC)

Having looked at the National Curriculum it states schools have to offer swimming in KS1 or KS2 so I am reluctant to make waves(!) as potentially they could restrict it as it is currently across all Key Stages.

DC3 is a at private nursery which is no way affiliated with the school and they get 6 free sessions in their final nursery year at the school's pool. We don't pay any kind of top-ups at all, purely there as a funded child.

It does seem a shame that the school owns the pool yet is being charged for lessons but presumably the figures just don't stack up.

PhantomPringles Mon 31-Oct-16 22:21:24

This sort of thing (charging to use facilities owned by the school) is frowned upon by the Department for Education

admission Mon 31-Oct-16 22:28:39

If the lesson is during school time then it is being classed as part of the curriculum and the school cannot charge you for it. If the lessons were somewhere else you could ask for a voluntary donation for transport but not in the circumstances that you describe. At best the school could suggest a voluntary donation but they should not be. The info is in the Department guidance Charging for school activities dated October 2014.

There are a number of issues here. The first is that the school are illegally charging you for a school time activity which is part of the national curriculum, unless they are specifically saying it is a voluntary donation.
The second is with regard to who owns the pool. I suspect that the pool is owned by the LA and as such somebody has failed miserably to protect the rights of the school in a new management coming in to run the pool and then charging the school if originally the school paid nothing.

The third is to do the sums. How many are going to the swimming? Probably a full class of 30, so the cost is £2.50 X 30 = £75 for what will be a 30 minute lesson. The class teacher will be at the pool, so how much do you think the rest of the cover staffing is costing for the lesson? This sounds much more like a charge towards the running costs of the pool as a charge solely for the pool supervisor and a trainer.

PrimaryConcern Mon 31-Oct-16 23:03:40

hmm I am now swinging back to perhaps saying something, though I'm not entirely sure what.

When we looked around the school, the (now retired) Head Teacher specifically said the school owned the pool but it was run by a third party company who ran the swim school and in return the school got their lessons for free. The last management company ceased trading very abruptly - I think it has been wound up. This happened over the summer holidays. I know the new management company didn't have any of the booked lesson information the previous company had agreed as there was a lot of disruption to the swimming club out of school hours.

I know the cost of a private 30 minute lesson via the swimschool is £30 - the school lessons are stated to be 45 minutes. Presumably they use an assistant too as well as the class instructor though I can't double check that with the DC until the morning. My DC are KS2 so I don't know if KS1 or Reception lessons are charged for.

The swimming lessons are in school time and are also subject to having enough parent helpers and will be cancelled if there aren't enough volunteers. As far as I am aware, the class teachers don't go along to the lessons - I think it's the TAs. I'm pretty sure that at least one of the helpers has to be in the pool, and the rest to supervise changing rooms and walking to and from the class room (a 30 second journey!). My younger DC mean I haven't been able to volunteer yet, so this is just garnered from the letters home urging for volunteers.

The school is pretty poor management-wise and I don't honestly think they would be receptive to answering questions. Not least that there isn't really anyone to ask at the moment! It became part of an academy trust in 2013 so I don't know what that means re ownership of the pool.

PrimaryConcern Mon 31-Oct-16 23:05:28

blush Sorry I got so caught up in my streams of consciousness I forgot to say thank you to Phantom Pringles and Admission for the information.

PrimaryConcern Mon 31-Oct-16 23:26:05

looking at the Department Guidance admission mentioned, it says schools can charge for community facilities and a swimming pool counts as one. Does this mean the school are within their rights to charge? Or as it's not managed directly by the school but by a 3rd party muddy the waters confused

I've copied and pasted:

Schools and local authorities can charge for:
• any materials, books, instruments, or equipment, where the child’s parent wishes
him/her to own them;
• optional extras (see page below);
• music and vocal tuition, in limited circumstances (see page 6);
• certain early years provision3
• community facilities4

Q. What are community facilities?
A. Schools are allowed to provide facilities that can be used by the local community, for
example out-of hours/holiday childcare or swimming pool sessions. These facilities
further any charitable purpose for the benefit of pupils at the school or their families, or
people who live or work in the locality in which the school is situated. Academies should
seek guidance from the Charity Commission if they are in doubt. Advice from the Charity
Commission can be found here.
Schools can charge for the use of these facilities, and a profit can also be generated,
providing it is spent on the purposes of the school and or on community facilities.
Maintained schools should check the local authority’s published financial “scheme” for
maintained schools in their area for any rules about the carry of profit from one financial
year to the next. Academies should determine fees and charges in accordance with
chapter 6 of HM Treasury’s Managing Public Money.

mrz Tue 01-Nov-16 06:17:24

Community facilities would be opening the school pool to public use outside the school day

Yakitori Tue 01-Nov-16 06:22:26

There's no way they can express it other than as a voluntary contribution, AFAIK.

Ours is £10 a year for about ten sessions.

exLtEveDallas Tue 01-Nov-16 06:31:12

Possibly they are charging for the staff (i.e. Lifeguards and Instructors) rather than the actual lessons. £75 seems about right to me for that.

Our school now has to charge for swimming lessons...that the majority don't actually want...because it is on the curriculum. The charge isn't for the lesson, or the hire of the pool, but for the transport to get there. School budget pays for the pool and instructors (and thankfully we have saved a bit of money by providing our own lifeguard trained parents), but cannot run to the bus as well. Unfortunately so many parents object and don't send the cash in that the school is having to cough up for that as well.

mrz Tue 01-Nov-16 06:37:40

A swimming teacher is no different to an English teacher or a PE teacher or a history teacher ... Swimming is part of the PE curriculum it's a lesson like any other. Most school pools don't have or require lifeguards IMHE.

exLtEveDallas Tue 01-Nov-16 06:42:03

Ah well I don't know then. We have to pay for one instructor and one assistant instructor. They wanted 2 more lifeguards as well but accepted the two volunteers instead.

When we ran the Garrison pool there had to be a pool manager/lifeguard on site at all times, even when the local school provided the instructors. It was part of the insurance qualification. I thought maybe OPs school pool was the same.

eviloops Tue 01-Nov-16 06:46:53

Swimming is part of the national curriculum and therefore an entitlement. As their are no travel costs involved, it is even more concerning that the school is requesting a weekly fee.

In order to raise funds from facilities on the school premises, governors can pass an arrangement for rent to be charged - normally this will be for external companies making use of the schools facilities like the hall, playground or pool. I understand how beneficial this is for the upkeep of the pool but this really shouldn't be down to the parents of the school to fund.

You are legally allowed to refuse to pay, which is what I would do. After all, you mentioned your DC isn't gaining a great deal from the lessons either.

Are the parent surveys knocking about at your school? Make a suggestion in their too if your pleas aren't heard.

I can only imagine this is the management taking a chance rather than them genuinely misleading you though.

As for the outstanding trip money, grrr, now that would be enough to tip me over the edge - especially as no notification has been sent out re the trip. I'd definitely have a stern word about that!

eviloops Tue 01-Nov-16 06:47:33

There not their! Typo.

mrz Tue 01-Nov-16 07:08:52

Most primary school pools are quite small (our pool is 10 by 5 metres as are all local school pools) and can be covered by the swimming teacher and school staff accompanying the class.

PrimaryConcern Tue 01-Nov-16 10:00:53

Thanks for the clarification mrz. So the school really can't legally charge.

Yakitori - yes it seems the charge is not allowed. Ours is £25 for 10 weeks. I'd be able to volunteer as one of the parent helpers next year, but I must admit the charge will make me think twice!

exLtEveDallas - It is a small pool with no lifeguard. The children are taken in groups of 10 by the parent helpers for a 45 min lesson, once a week for 10 weeks. So £25 per child. The pool is on site so no transport costs. The charge is specified as a charge for staffing.

I get school budgets are being slashed but I think in this case they are approaching it all wrong, and it would also appear to be illegally. They own the swimming pool and historically the agreement with the management company was free lessons. The change from pool management has coincided with the Head's retirement and we've had an executive head from the Academy Trust plus (the now left) deputy covering. To say it hasn't worked well is an understatement! I suspect the school/Academy has been rushed into accepting the new deal, but should parents be expected to pay for that?

eviloops -The school is struggling in all kinds of ways and I've never seen any parent surveys. The trip charge has really annoyed me as one of my DC mentioned it a month ago. Told letters home would be done soon. It then appeared on the school calendar but still no information sent home. The trip is in 3 weeks and is £16 per child. I have 2 and I'm not the only one. It is a good trip and a good price but leaving it so late puts parents in an awkward position. When i spoke to them about the late notice and still no permission letter I was told not to worry as they didn’t have to go. hmm

There used to be a compulsory £1 per week snack charge and I had no qualms in refusing to pay for one of my DC as he never ate them, but complaining about this seems a bit more out there IYKWIM. With my younger 2 DC I will have a child at the school for another 9 years, so I'm a bit reluctant to cause a fuss.

Thanks everyone for your

PhantomPringles Tue 01-Nov-16 11:26:02

I've sent you a PM.

admission Tue 01-Nov-16 17:12:20

My guess is that being a relatively new academy, part of MAT with recent senior management changes along with the changes in management at the pool all add up to nobody really being on top of what is and is not allowable.

It probably needs somebody to point out the issue and the legislation but accept that for many parents they feel that this will be a problem.

One thing you might consider is sending a nice polite letter to the Clerk to the Governors care of the school, asking for the charging policy for the school, as a first shot across the bows. It would be interesting to see what that says, as it should be quite clear in that policy what can be and what cannot be charged for. That might just give you the opportunity to raise the issue in a more positive manner asking for clarity based on the school policy.

Shurelyshomemistake Tue 01-Nov-16 22:06:08

Ok, if it is an academy then if you want to be sure of the position then you would need to check the academy's funding agreement and see what it says about charging. It is highly likely to say that charges cannot be made for education during school hours so like others have said, it probably should not be charging for this if it is being offered as part of the regular curriculum. There are however some academies with odd clauses in their funding agreements.

I think admission's advice is really sensible - e.g., ask them what their general charging policy is.

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