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Voluntary contribution, but if you want your child to go you have to pay.

(52 Posts)
Noneoffyourbusiness1 Tue 12-Feb-19 09:09:26

I received a letter home form my 4year old sons infant school yesterday. It's about a school trip, with a voluntary contribution. I have 3 older children so this is not new to me.

What I haven't seen before is this sentence " please note by agreeing to your child participation in this activity you are also agreeing to pay the voluntary contribution for the trip"

They have included two tick boxes one saying I would like my child to attend and agree to pay the £15. And another saying I would NOT like my child to attend.
The letter dose not even give you a option to say I would like my child to attend but I can voluntarily contribute £____.

I always thought that a voluntary contribution meant you could pay what you could. I am fortunate enough that I can pay the £15 for the trip but there maybe parents at the school that can pay all of this. And let's face it £15 for a 4 year old to go to a garden centre for the day is a lot.

What I am asking is can they word the letter like this, to me this is saying that if I agree that I want my child to go, then I agree to pay the charge. How can this be voluntary. I feel like I am being held to ransom.

I feel like making my own tick box up saying I would like my child to attend but I will pay £__ VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION.

Am I being unreasonable wanting the letter to give all the options, and for the wording to be different.

nervousmums Tue 12-Feb-19 09:12:33

Not at all. Yanbu. It's a very poorly worded letter and given they are supposed to be tracing children communication skills I'd definitely complain. It's a trip which costs 15 pounds. There's nothing voluntary about it and this nonsense just causes confusion.

lurker101 Tue 12-Feb-19 09:14:37

My school fees were classed as voluntary contribution 😂 I think it’s how they get round certain regulations

Ali1cedowntherabbithole Tue 12-Feb-19 09:19:10

If most parents don’t pay, the trip can’t happen though. Most schools have a facility to pay for those in genuine need, but I’m afraid there will always be parents that take the piss.

“Voluntary contribution” is worded carefully, but there is an expectation that if you can pay you should. Why wouldn’t you?

irvineoneohone Tue 12-Feb-19 09:27:15

Wasn't there any suggestion about speaking to school/teacher if having difficulty paying?

Noneoffyourbusiness1 Tue 12-Feb-19 09:34:14

I understand that if not enough parents pay then the trip can not go ahead. But why make it voluntary, why not just say if you want your child to go then you must pay.
But they do not make the options clear, I know some family's that find it hard to even read the letters let alone understand the options. The letter is worded as you must pay.

Noneoffyourbusiness1 Tue 12-Feb-19 09:36:55

Ohh no there is nothing on this letter about it.. to give the school there due I have seen that on other letters before.

lemonface Tue 12-Feb-19 09:44:35

It is my understanding that loads of people don't pay the voluntary contribution (90% in local school) and it is the wealthier parents who don't actually, makes my blood boil. Twats

reallybadidea Tue 12-Feb-19 09:46:25

I don't think that state schools are allowed to do that:

Q. Can a school ask parents for voluntary contributions?
A. Schools may invite parents and others to make voluntary contributions to make school funds go further. All requests to parents for voluntary contributions must make it clear that the contributions would be voluntary. It should be remembered that education
provided during school hours must be free. This includes materials, equipment, and
transport provided in school hours by the local authority or by the school to carry pupils between the school and an activity. Governing bodies should also clearly explain that children of parents who do not contribute will not be treated any differently, and that the activity might be cancelled if insufficient contributions are received.

reallybadidea Tue 12-Feb-19 09:48:10

From this publication: www.gov.uk/government/publications/charging-for-school-activities

admission Tue 12-Feb-19 17:11:15

By asking for a voluntary donation it is either for an activity in school time that they are not allowed to charge for or it is a voluntary donation for transport to get to the venue of the activity. Either way it is not compulsory and therefore the wording of the letter is incorrect.
I wonder whether this is a letter from somebody who is not aware of the regulations and it has slipped through without it being noticed.
I would go back to the head teacher and ask for clarity on this. That will soon tell you whether it is the school getting "tough and incorrect" on donations or a genuine mistake by the person writing the letter.

RiverTam Tue 12-Feb-19 17:13:56

£15???? To go to a garden centre? What are they travelling in, a gold-plated bus?

Shows a lack of understanding of the words 'voluntary contribution' but we've never had a trip costing more than a few quid, and that's including going to the theatre!

cassgate Tue 12-Feb-19 17:54:00

Cost will likely be for a coach. Coach hire is extortionate. We run a lot of trips to venues that are free to get in but coach hire fees mean that sometimes it is just too expensive for our parents and trips are cancelled. We have a trip booked to the science museum in the summer. Letters went out to parents after Xmas so as to give as much notice as possible but we will almost certainly be chasing parents for payments up to a few days before. A couple of years ago a trip was cancelled a week before because not enough contributions were received. Our school also heavily subsidises trips as well but we still have to cancel sometimes.

RiverTam Tue 12-Feb-19 17:55:17

Crikey. I can see why DD's school never ever hire a coach and go on public transport (free for children in London), even if it is a massive ballache!

noblegiraffe Tue 12-Feb-19 17:56:20

Schools aren’t allowed to charge for trips and have to call it a voluntary donation but if parents don’t pay the trip doesn’t go ahead.

BerensteinBear Tue 12-Feb-19 18:00:43

Unless you are on a very low income, of course you should pay. Someone I know in passing at DS school was laughing about never paying for days out /school trips. She is decked out in designer gear and drives a 68 plate Range Rover. It really annoyed me!

HexagonalBattenburg Tue 12-Feb-19 19:27:14

It's definitely the wealthier ones who don't pay up in my kids' school. We're there scraping by at the end of the month and always pay up - yet there are ones bragging they won't pay who swan around in top of the range BMWs and Mercs with private number plates and how the £3 contribution will help pay for a bottle of wine for them which is more important.

My response was "flipping heck what are you drinking for £3 a bottle - vinegar?!"

It really pisses me off but there's not much I can do about human nature and people being prats.

meditrina Tue 12-Feb-19 19:40:30

I have some sympathy for the school - they have clearly had an outbreak of pisstakers who have seen payment as optional.

This however not the way to remedy it, for what they are doing is illegal. Pupils must not be excluded from trips for whole classes/year groups because their parents cannot pay. That is the law. Not local policy - the national (pre-devolution) law.

That is why the payment is voluntary. If there is a shortfall, which cannot be made up (school funds, PTA, random benefactor) then the trip has to be cancelled.

BubblesBuddy Tue 12-Feb-19 19:58:58

I wonder if they have set the payment high because of the number of helpers/staff who
have to go but who won’t be paying. It may also be going some way to help the children of the non payers go? It’s not a perfect system but if the majority of parents want trips for all children, those that can have to pay. It’s not ideal but the only other alternative is not to have trips.

spanieleyes Tue 12-Feb-19 20:10:09

You cannot "charge" more than is required to cover the cost shared between the possible participants, so no excess to offset against those that don't go ( So if a trip costs £300 in total for 30 children, the school can only ask for £10, not £12 to offset the cost of those that decide not to pay) That cost will include a portion of the teacher's cost( if applicable-most trips have free places for teachers) but for each parent that doesn't contribute, the school is subsidising ( and a subsidy is usually required even if everyone pays because trips are so expensive.
It will probably be only time before teachers are charged for going on trips too!

irvineoneohone Tue 12-Feb-19 21:27:25

I do get that people feel it's not right that letter say if you don't pay don't go. But I do feel that school are actually struggling. If they have any trips, children enjoys it. So, I really don't get it if you can pay it but find it upsetting about the wording of the letter. It's a different story if you are struggling and school isn't helping.
School will help with children who needs help. They do have some funding for it, don't they?
If you are ok financially normally but have problem this time, you can always speak to school, right?
I really find it weird that school needs to be so careful about how to word a letter to parents, when they are only doing something good for the children's sake.

donquixotedelamancha Tue 12-Feb-19 21:35:48

But why make it voluntary, why not just say if you want your child to go then you must pay.

Because that would be unlawful. A state school can't charge for education.

That doesn't mean they have to let you on the trip if you don't pay (though if not, arguably in most circumstances it would be unlawful and in practice most schools will pay if asked by someone whose child receives PP).

They can (theoretically) offer an educationally equivalent free alternative.

Lougle Tue 12-Feb-19 21:40:42

No, that is wrong. On any level.

DD2's school run activities in the last 3 days of term and have trouble with non-payment of fees. They still sent out a letter with 3 options this year. A) I am happy to pay the full fee of X
B) My child is in receipt of Pupil Premium and I would like to discuss options for payment (the letter had mentioned partial payment or complete funding depending on cost) or
C) I am unwilling to pay for this activity.

They made the caveat that if insufficient funds were received, they would be unable to run the trips.

admission Tue 12-Feb-19 21:50:21

I suggest the school looks at the latest advice on charging and remissions from the DfE which is dated May 2018, when they will recognise that they cannot refuse a pupil going on the trip because their parent makes a decision to not pay the voluntary contribution.

There is in my mind a massive difference between requests for a voluntary contribution for a trip etc and what can only be described as more like blackmail to get parents to contribute a voluntary contribution for books, stationery etc as the schools claim they are so badly off in their funding.

lemonface Tue 12-Feb-19 21:54:06

What I don't understand is why all these parents are happy to bring in so many gifts for teachers but they won't pay the contribution and my teacher friends say they would much rather have the funds to pay for the equipment/ trips to better their education than get 30 boxes of chocolates/ bottles of wine every bloody term!!

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