Squeezed budget leads school to consult on regular cash payments from parents

Squeezed budget leads school to consult on regular cash payments from parents

In the face of increasing costs and flat budgets, one school has taken an “unprecedented step” of consulting parents on giving regular cash contributions to its running costs.

Tadcaster Grammar School, a secondary and sixth form in north Yorkshire, wrote to parents claiming “financial constraints will inevitably” affect its ability to maintain its current service.

Headteacher Martyn Sibley pointed to rising pension costs and a 3.4 per cent increase in National Insurance contributions from next April. He said the changes mean the school needs an extra £1,100 per teacher.

Funding levels per pupil will be maintained over the next five years, the government has promised, but they will not rise in line with inflation or costs. A recent study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies said this amounts to an 8 per cent cut to school budget in real terms.

Mr Sibley states in the letter: “As a consequence, as a governing body, we are taking the unprecedented step of consulting with parents about their views on raising additional income through voluntary parental contributions.”

The letter asks parents to complete a questions about how much they would be willing to pay toward a general contribution each month, in increments from £5 to £50.

On top of the above contribution, parents are also asked if they would prefer that incidental requests for money – for example to fund art equipment, locker rental and technology materials – were axed in favour of a monthly payment, with preferred options ranging from between £2.50 to “above £10”.

A further monthly contribution of £10-15 is also requested to buy Chromebooks for lease to each pupil.

The school would not provide Schools Week with a statement when approached, but did stress that this was a consultation and the letter did not constitute a final decision.

The Department for Education reiterated schools can ask for voluntary donations but must make it clear there is no obligation for parents to pay.

A spokesperson said: “This government is taking the difficult decisions necessary to ensure that the schools budget is protected and will continue to rise as pupil numbers increase. This is a key part of our commitment to extending opportunity and delivering educational excellence everywhere.”