Study warns teachers are under too much pressure to attract cash. Jon Slater reports.
RICH and poor schools are drifting further apart, according to an influential report published today.
Schools in deprived parts of the country are up to pound;500,000 worse off than those in well-to-do areas because they are unable to compete in the fundraising stakes, says the report, produced by the research charity Directory of Social Change.
It suggests that while some schools attract large sums from businesses and charities, others are struggling to make a success of even basic events such as summer fetes and raffles.
The report also warns that the pursuit of cash is putting undue pressure on teachers and diverting them from teaching. An "emerging bid culture" is also a time-consuming burden on headteachers chasing additional government money which is only open to a fixed number of schools.
The research, based on a survey of 1,000 primaries and secondaries, estimates that around pound;230 million was raised in 1997-98. Most of the money was spent on extra books, computers and sports equipment, and on funding trips.
But, says the report, it is not the increasing amount of money raised which is significant - in real terms only slightly more than a decade ago - but the unequal way it is now distributed.
While 5 per cent of secondary schools, many suffering from high levels of deprivation, raise less than pound;1,000 a year, an elite of 3 per cent raise annually between pound;25,000 and pound;500,000.
A similar picture emerges in the primary sector, with a fifth of schools raising less than pound;1,000 a year, while 1 per cent raise more than pound;25,000.
However, even the most successful state schools' efforts are overshadowed by the independent sector, where one in five schools raises more than pound;500,000 a year. Some aim to raise millions through long-term development appeals.
According to the report, state schools in deprived areas are at a double disadvantage, having to combat social problems without being able to attract the additional cash available to others in more affluent areas.
Most primaries where more than half of the pupils are entitled to free school meals - a key measure of poverty - raise less than pound;1,000 in voluntary income.
"The gap is widening and I think it's particularly significant that a small number of schools have been highly successful in raising large amounts of money, imitating the independent sector," said the report's co-author Anne Mountfield.
"We are not anti-fundraising. If schools identify genuinely innovative extra-curricular activities there are very exciting things they can do. But it's very sad if schools feel they have to raise money to redecorate the classroom."
The report calls on the Government to produce guidance on the proper place of fundraising in schools and says those struggling to raise cash for extras should be given help to gain sponsorship.
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