Parents are raising more than $357 million a year in
donations and fundraising to support the "free" schooling
Schools in wealthier neighbourhoods are bringing in an
average of $740 a student each year in donations and
fundraising, figures released to the Weekend Herald show.
The amount raked in by voluntary donations has climbed - but
so, too, has the millions of dollars brought in through
increasingly sophisticated fundraising drives.
School fairs at some Auckland primary schools have developed
from baking and coconut shys to include silent auctions for
donated items including overseas holidays, with the most
successful bringing in more than $100,000.
Others are targeting ex-pupils for ongoing support, something
traditionally associated with the tertiary sector.
According to information released to the Weekend Herald, the
amount of voluntary school donations, contributions and
fundraising received by state and state-integrated schools
was $357.54 million in 2012, the most recent figure
available. That was an increase of more than $16 million from
One parent with two children at a state primary school has
questioned the more than $1000-a-year cost. The mother, who
asked not to be named, paid two lots of the $480 donation at
Auckland's decile 10 Meadowbank School, and then an
additional $167 in activity fees.
"If you don't pay your donation or you part-pay, your child
gets an envelope to bring home about once a term to ask for
payment - i.e. they are named and shamed."
Meadowbank principal Peter Ayson said the donation was
determined by the board of trustees and in line with other
schools in the area, and the amount asked for at Auckland
schools tended to be higher.
Around 85 per cent of families paid, and no pressure or
action was taken against those that did not, as the school
recognised they could not afford to.
The overall figures also showed a marked difference between
what schools in poor and rich areas took in fundraising. In
2012, decile 10 schools brought in an average of $445 more
per student in fundraising and donations than their decile 1
Principals' Federation president Phil Harding said the
imbalance was somewhat addressed by more government funding
given to lower decile schools, but that was not so much the
case for mid-decile schools.
He said he believed that in recent years it was understood
that a donation was just that.
Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said parents had
always willingly contributed to some of the optional extras,
"but increasingly they are now being asked to pay for the
"What we have seen over quite a sustained period of time is
an erosion of school funding in real terms relative to the
costs that they face."
Education Minister Hekia Parata said schools' operational
grants had been increased by more than $500 million over the
past five years - increases that, on average, had kept pace
with inflation and allowed schools to keep up with real
"Despite tight fiscal times, we put more than $9.7 billion
into education in 2013-14, the highest spending ever in
Ms Parata said donations were not compulsory, and boards of
trustees decided upon what parents were asked for. "That's up
to each school and their parents. They need to be talking
about those expectations."