Schools are raising more than pound;1.5 billion in a year from businesses, parents and community organisations to pay for teachers' salaries, equipment and buildings.
Around pound;244 million of the total comes from donations from parents, businesses and churches, the equivalent of almost 8,000 teachers or four reference books for every child. Car boot sales, coffee mornings and fetes are raising funds to bridge the gap between government funding and schools'
needs. One state boarding school is boosting its income by charging Jehovah's Witnesses to stay in the school while on religious retreats.
Headteachers said this week that fundraising had ceased to be for extras and was increasingly for essentials as the idea of free education was eroded.
The scale of the fundraising is revealed in Department for Education and Skills figures which show how much schools are raising to supplement the pound;9bn from the state. Schools are also generating cash by hiring out premises, charging for after-school clubs and vending machines.
Headteachers warned ministers earlier this year that the requirement to give teachers 10 per cent guaranteed non-contact time for planning, preparation and assessment would put huge pressure on budgets.
Official figures now show that secondaries in England raised more than Pounds 750m in 200304 - an average of pound;221,961 each compared to an average pound;35,000 or pound;624.5m nationally in primaries.
State boarding schools generated an average of almost pound;1m. Top of the fundraisers was Wymondham school in Norfolk.
The amount donated varied across the country with schools in Ealing, west London, gaining pound;37,808 on average compared to just pound;429 per school in Stockport.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The funding system is not delivering the goods. A significant number of schools are raising a great deal of income to pay for essentials."
Sherwood primary in Preston is holding a coffee morning tomorrow to buy reading books. David Fann, the head, said: "We used to raise funds for extras, but not now."
At Hillcrest school in Dudley Mo Brennan, headteacher, said: "As long as it's not illegal or immoral, I will do it."
She has packed bags in supermarkets and washed cars to raise money for her school.
Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "The Government says parents are not involved or taking an interest. These figures prove the vast majority are."