The parents’ association at an academy in north London has refused the head’s request for members to phone families asking them to consider making regular donations to a fundraising trust.
The headmistress of Watford Grammar School for Girls (WGGS), Dame Helen Hyde, asked the association to “man the phones” to request parents to set up regular standing orders.
Dame Helen said the school had for many years contacted parents individually to remind them of the Women of Vision (WoV) Trust, set up to administer a gift aid scheme on the school’s behalf, which had a “set of independent trustees”.
She said it was “no surprise” the association had declined.
In previous years it had “volunteered to participate in this process, where they have had particular skills in this area”. But “not all PAs [parent associations] would have members who have these skills or would feel comfortable making this sort of cold call, so it is no surprise if a PA declines to support the school in this way”.
She told the Watford Observer last month that the school had already squeezed its budgets “to such an extent that the next step will impact on children’s learning – our only alternative is to reduce staff and increase class sizes”.
But she told Schools Week that the school “had sufficient income in this school year with the support currently being provided by the WoV Trust”.
PTA UK, the umbrella group for parents’ associations, said: “In our experience it’s unusual for schools to make such a request as PTAs are separate entities from their school – legally, constitutionally and in some cases in charitable status.
“One of the benefits of a PTA is that any funds raised are the responsibility of the PTA committee to manage with the agreement of parents. Therefore, in this case, the parents’ association was fully within its rights to refuse the request made by the school.”
WGGS Academy Trust’s accounts for the year ending August 31 2014 show that the WoV Trust gave it £30,000 for the purchase of “tangible fixed assets”, and had donated £307,045 in the year ended August 31, 2013.
The accounts also show that the amount spent on educational supplies at the 1,250-pupil school fell from £115,124 in 2013 to £85,412 in 2014.
The trust wholly owns Watford Grammar School for Girls Services Ltd, which provides gym, caretaking and payroll services.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “We know that schools are increasingly under financial pressure. It is concerning that more and more schools are having to ask for contributions from parents; not to fund extra activities, but to pay for essential equipment and to meet running costs. This is certainly not sustainable.”