At least 100 state-funded schools are demanding financial contributions to their budgets from parents in violation of the law, according to new research.
The information gathered by the British Humanist Association (BHA) reveals that most of them are faith schools. In one case, a Jewish primary in Essex requested £340 a term per child from parents.
Under current guidance, schools are allowed to seek voluntary donations from pupils’ parents. But the law dictates that they must make it clear that there is no obligation to make any contribution, and to ensure that parents do not feel under pressure to pay.
The BHA has found that a large number of schools – it logged 100, before deciding that the numbers were too overwhelming – are breaking this law.
For example, one Church of England primary states on its website: “We have an annual payment of £30 for the school building fund/capitation for parents. This is not a voluntary contribution, but is a payment all Church of England schools require to maintain the school buildings and classrooms.”
And a Catholic primary’s website says that “parents of the pupils attending the school are responsible for contributing 10 per cent towards all building works”. It goes on to ask for £100 from families.
The sums vary. A Catholic primary in Birmingham asked for £5 a year. Many of the schools stressed that the sum named was a minimum payment. And a large number called for parents to set up a standing order or direct debit to the school.
Religious groups running state schools are required to cover 10 per cent of their capital costs. Andrew Copson, chief executive of the BHA, said it was scandalous that this money was being demanded from parents.
“Churches claim that the primary aim of their involvement in education is to provide for the poor and disadvantaged,” he said. “The fact that these abuses occur so widely should call into question the whole system of regulation surrounding state-funded faith schools.”