Schools have been reminded they must make it clear parents are under no obligation to pay voluntary donations after a charity found scores of schools were potentially breaking rules.
Research by the British Humanist Association (BHA) found 100 schools that could have been unlawfully demanding and pressuring parents to contribute toward school funds.
One primary school in Liverpool asked parents to sign a commitment to supporting its governors’ school building fund in their home/school agreement – which parents must sign on accepting a place at the school.
The charity found another school in greater Manchester had written to parents asking them to “please examine your conscience” when urging sign up.
“Have you paid or are you deliberately choosing not to pay? Your action have a direct impact on the children,” the letter read.
While schools may ask parents for voluntary contributions, they are required to make clear there is no obligation to pay.
Department for Education (DfE) guidance also clearly states that families must not feel “pressurised into paying”.
BHA – a charity which works on behalf of non-religious people – investigated the first 100 schools listed after a web search of potential breaches.
Nine in ten of schools returned by the search were faith schools.
BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said the findings were “outrageous”. The charity will be writing to the government to raise concerns.
The move follows Schools Week revealing earlier this year that prestigious Grey Coat Hospital School, in Westminster, asked parents for money when offering their pupils a place.
The school – attended by the daughters of David Cameron and former education secretary Michael Gove – wrote to parents to apologise the following week.
In response to the BHA research, the DfE said it would investigate any alleged breaches.
It added any complaints about charges should first be made to the school for governors to investigate. If parents are not satisfied then they can complain to the DfE for local authority schools or the EFA for free schools and academies.