More than a third of parents have been asked to donate money to their child’s school, according to a new survey by PTA UK, a charity which represents a network of parent associations in schools.
Education leaders have said the findings again expose the “inadequacy of school funding”.
Of 1,514 parents surveyed, 37 per cent recalled being asked to add to a school’s funds.
Younger parents (aged 18 to 34) donated the most, at £9.40 per month on average, compared to £6.20 by older parents (aged over 55). The average parent is contributing £7.30 a month, according to the PTA UK’s report.
Mary Bousted, general secretary for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said the findings were “very concerning” as many less well-off parents would be unable to afford a contribution.
But she added that schools felt “compelled to ask” for money because of the “inadequacy of school funding”.
More than half of parents (63 per cent) who were asked to give money said they did not know, or were “unsure”, how the contribution was spent.
Bousted added: “They [parents] will also wonder what the school is doing with that money, whether it’s going on extracurricular activities or lessons.”
Schools feel compelled to ask for money because of the inadequacy of school funding
The findings come after the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted an eight per cent real-terms cut in school budgets by 2020.
Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of parents said they felt the cost of education was rising, the PTA report also found.
Only 47 per cent of parents felt concerned by this, but poorer or younger parents were more likely to be worried, as were those with children at secondary school.
“The lack of clarity around funding and the perceived rise in the cost of schooling highlights the need for schools and government to be more transparent,” said the report.
But not all schools are following rules when requesting donations. Schools Week has previously reported that 100 schools had broken admissions rules by making parents feel “pressurised into paying” a voluntary donation.
Nine out of 10 schools found to do so were faith schools, the research by the British Humanist Association found.
Grey Coat Hospital school in Westminster, which taught the children of former education secretary, Michael Gove, and former prime minister, David Cameron, also apologised after asking parents for a £120 cheque as part of its admission process, following an exclusive investigation by Schools Week.
Meanwhile Sir Andrew Carter, head of the South Farnham Educational Trust and chair of the independent review of initial teacher training, has also told the state sector to follow the private school sector in “asking parents for a contribution”.
He said headteachers might need to ask a premium of £500 a year for activities at a school which go “above and beyond” the core business of lessons and staff.
All parents surveyed had at least one child in a state school in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.
A Department for Education spokesperson said they “recognise schools are facing costs pressures”, adding the department will “continue to provide advice and support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways”.
But added school funding is at its “highest level of record”.
The new funding formula would overhaul school budget allocations based on “patchy and inconsistent” decisions, the spokesperson said, and instead fund schools according to the needs of their pupils.
“We are consulting on how we propose to weight funding and we know that it is important that we get the formulae and system right so that every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact.
“The consultation will run until 22 March 2017, and we are keen to hear from as many schools, governors, local authorities and parents as possible.”