State ‘faith’ schools demand money from parents

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Research by the British Humanist Association (BHA) has revealed a shocking number of state-funded ‘faith’ schools demanding financial contributions from parents, in flagrant violation of the law.

The findings follow the revelation in March that the popular Grey Coat Hospital School in Westminster had sent letters requesting money from prospective parents, and suggest that such requests are far more widespread than first believed.

Under current guidance, nothing prevents a school from seeking voluntary donations from parents with children at the school, but the law dictates that schools must not only ‘make it clear to parents that there is no obligation to make any contribution’, but also ensure that parents ‘not be made to feel pressurised into paying as it is voluntary and not compulsory’.

In addition, requesting financial contributions of any kind as part of the admissions process is prohibited under the School Admissions Code and Home/School Agreements are not allowed to contain requests for financial contributions.

Despite this, BHA analysis has found a large number of schools asking parents for money whilst either putting undue pressure on them to contribute or not making it clear that contributions were voluntary. In a large number of cases the requests for money were described as mandatory.

One Church of England primary school states on its website that ‘As a Church of England School, we have an annual payment of £30 for the school Building Fund/Capitation for parents. This is not a voluntary contribution but it is a payment all Church of England Schools require to maintain the school buildings and classrooms’.

Another school’s website, this time a Catholic primary, explains that ‘As a voluntary aided school, parents of the pupils attending the school are responsible for contributing 10% towards all building works’, before asking for £100 per family. One Jewish school was even found to be requesting over £1000 a year (per child) from parents.

A number of schools also stressed that the requested contribution, far from being voluntary, was a minimum amount, encouraging families that could afford to pay more to do so.

One school even suggested that parents should contribute to the fund by using the money they were saving as a result of receiving free school meals.

Commenting on the findings, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: "It is scandalous that the 10% of capital costs which religious groups running state schools are obliged to pay is actually being demanded unlawfully from parents and even that money is being demanded at all.

"Religious schools and the government often justify the broad powers they have to religiously discriminate against children and teachers, or to set their own narrow RE curriculum, on the grounds that they’re footing some of the bill.

"These findings make a mockery of that argument, and also undermine the Churches’ claim that the primary aim of their involvement in education is to provide for the poor and disadvantaged.

"The fact that these abuses occur so widely, and that it is only down to our investigation that they have been exposed, should call into question the whole system of regulation surrounding state-funded “faith” schools."

School Leadership Today
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