Nick Gibb: It's 'not right' for schools to ask parents to pay for basics

Schools minister says tax-funded schools should not ask parents to pay for pens.

Charlotte Santry

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It is "not right" for headteachers to ask parents to pay for basic classroom items when schools are sitting on surpluses worth £4 billion, schools standards minister Nick Gibb has said today.

His comments come as a school in prime minister Theresa May's constituency is asking parents for a £1 a day voluntary contribution to help pay for pens, pencils and books.

Mr Gibb was appearing this morning at the National Association of School Business Managers (NASBM) conference in Birmingham, when he was asked: "Is it right that schools are asking parents money to buy pens when some MAT (multi-academy trust) CEOs are earning six-figure salaries?"

He replied: "Not only that, but the school system as a whole has surpluses amounting to £4 billion, compared with cumulative deficits of £200 million. 

"And of course schools can ask parents for voluntary donations for extra trips, facilities they want to provide. But school funding has been maintained in real terms in the last parliament, and we’ve got an extra £1.3 billion coming to schools.

"Every school in the country will see an increase in their funding as a consequence of the NFF (national funding formula). So it’s not right for schools to be asking parents for money for the basics that are funded by taxpayers' money."

School surpluses

Last month, Department for Education permanent secretary Jonathan Slater made a similar point about school surpluses, saying that schools were sitting on £4.3 billion of "financial headroom".

Mr Slater's comments were criticised by public accounts committee chair Meg Hillier, who accused him of advocating a "raiding of the surpluses".

At today's NASBM conference, Mr Gibb was also asked whether there would be extra money for schools to pay for the 5 per cent pay rise that unions say teachers deserve.

He said that school funding per pupil was being protected in real terms, adding: "Of course schools will have to live within their budget as they consider pay rises going forward."

Tracey Gray, NASBM's chair of trustees, said: "I think that’s a genuine concern that, if negotiated 5 per cent pay increases are not then followed by an increase in funding, then you go back to square one."

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