8 Feb 2017

More schools forgo donations - but at what cost?

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 8 February 2017

More and more schools are forgoing school donations because parents cannot afford them, a school principals' federation says.

school desks

The Ministry of Education is conducting a review of funding for schools, including changes to the decile system. Photo: 123RF

Decile 3 Monrad Intermediate School in Palmerston North has axed donations and fees after finding less than a quarter of families were paying them.

The school's principal, John Forsyth, told Nine to Noon it has made up the shortfall by not replacing two pupil assist roles in a unit that helps children who have fallen behind in reading, maths and English.

His school has also set up a hardship fund to meet students' travel and camp costs and will help with sports fees.

It had been asking for a $50 donation and $50 in fees to cover the costs of technology courses such as food and biotech, hard materials, science and music. 

"The board decided to be a little more creative in the use of its targeted fund for educational achievement and last year decided they would pay the technology fees, would not ask for the school donation and they would also pay the subs for the first team that a child gets into representing Monrad Intermediate because we had a number of very talented sports people who weren't paying basketball because their parents couldn't afford the $60 sub that was required," Mr Forsyth said.

He said politicians said it was a voluntary donation but the reality was the money was much needed and well used.

The national president of the New Zealand Principals' Federation, Whetu Cormick, told Nine to Noon no statistics were available on how many schools were making the same decision.

"We're hearing anecdotally that schools are struggling, so hence the need for donations, but we're also hearing that some of our school communities that are economically deprived are increasingly finding it hard to recover or receive those donations," he said.

The Ministry of Education is conducting a review of funding for schools, including changes to the decile system.

"The reality on the ground at a school is very different to the reality here in Wellington at the Ministry of Education and I'm delighted there is a review of funding for schools, and the minister tells us in 2020 that we will have a new funding regime that I hope will support schools like John's and also my school in south Dunedin - it's a decile 3 school," Mr Cormick said.

He said his school asked for a donation of $40 a year to help meet budget restraints but less than two-thirds of parents paid.