The importance of being earners

12th May 2000 at 01:00
State schools now driven to raise pound;230 million a year. Jon Slater reports.

THE traditional image of school fundraising - of tombolas and jumble sales - is a thing of the past, according to a report published this week.

School Fundraising in England, by Anne Mountfield and Nicola Eastwood, estimates that maintained schools now raise pound;230 million a year - over and above what they receive from the taxpayer. This represents a rise of more than 10 per cent above inflation during the past 10 years.

The rise of Parent Teacher Associations and donations from pupils' families in the 1980s has been followed by increased efforts to attract business, church or community sponsorship into schools in the 1990s.

Although parents continue to be the biggest source of funds for schools who are looking for extra resources, secondary schools in particular are also becoming adept at raising significant sums from business.

The consensus of the early 1980s - that schools should only raise money for "extras" - has broken down.

Fundraising is increasingly central to the facilities and equipment on offer to pupils. Schools use fundraising to pay for books, computers and buildings "on a scale that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago".

The report, which is published by the Directory of Social Change, a charity which researches voluntary-sector issues, examines the pressures on staff to raise funds, the success of different types of school in fundraising and who is accountable for how the money is used. Findings are based on a 1,000-school survey carried out last year. It found that efforts to raise funds have become a "source of stress" detracting from other activities.

"Fundraising is a major and probably disproportionate distraction, both in time and effort, from the principal roles of teachers and headteachers in particular," the report says. "Many independent schools can afford professional help; maintained schools usually cannot."

Senior teachers should be given training in volunteer management and schools should use the expertise of the voluntary sector when preparing fundraising strategies and bidding for funds from non-educational bodies.

The report highlights the deep divide between haves and have-nots. One in five primaries and one in 20 secondaries - many in disadvantaged areas - raises less than pound;1,000 a year.

This compares to 6 per cent of primaries which generate more than pound;10,000 and 1 percent which raise more than pound;25,000. Less successful schools were disproportionately situated in disadvantaged areas.

Overall, secondaries raise almost three times more than

primary schools. Almost half raise more than pound;10,000 a year and one in 30 raises between pound;250,000 and pound;500,000.

Independent schools raise even more and also benefit from additional tax breaks and expertise in raising funds.

The report says that schools in deprived areas are "doubly disadvantaged". This is especially the case for special schools whose low voluntary income compounds the disadvantages their pupils face.

The authors describe the divide as "a hidden fault line which is widening unobserved". With schools typically spending 90 per cent of their budgets on teachers' salaries, this makes a real

difference to their "disposable" budgets.

Uneven distribution of voluntary funds is not the only concern. The report says that there is little or no scrutiny of the way in which funds raised by schools are tracked and spent.

While the charity commission takes little interest in the accounts of parent teacher associations - and in the case of former grant-maintained schools has no powers - the Department for Education and Employment has little expertise to tackle problems which could occur. The report calls for clarification of the charity law and the establishment of an independent body to scrutinise school fundraising.

However, despite the stress, lack of proper legal framework and the pressure on schools to raise funds, schools still man-aged to raise pound;30m for external

charities in 1997-98.

School Fundraising in England, costing pound;9.95 plus pound;2.50 postage and packing, is available from the Directory of Social Change, 24 Stephenson Way, London NW1P 2DP. Tel: 020 7209 5151. TOP FIVE PRIORITIES FOR EXTRA SPENDING SCHOOL FUNDRAISING IN ENGLAND


* Government should advise on what money raised by schools should be used for;

* Government should identify under-provided schools to help businesses and trusts give their money where it is most needed;

* Senior teachers to be trained as "volunteer management";

* Schools should value donations in kind from parents and business as well as cash;

* Companies should favour small and special schools when making donations;

* Establish a "school house" to oversee school accounts, including voluntary income.

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