Labour targets school donations

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Labour leader Andrew Little said the education system was supposed to be free and accessible to everybody and there was concern about parents feeling pressured to pay the ‘‘voluntary donations’’. Photo: NZ Herald

Labour hopes to reduce the practice of schools asking for so-called ‘‘voluntary donations’’ from parents by giving schools that drop the practice an extra $150 per pupil at an estimated cost of $17 million.

The scheme is in Labour’s new education policy, to be unveiled today, and is similar to its 2014 policy, which offered $100 per pupil to schools that stopped donations.
However, it will not be enough to get all schools to participate.

Labour is estimating more than half of schools will take up the offer, mainly mid and low-decile schools where the donations tend to be smaller than $150.
The costing of $17 million was based on 425,000 pupils.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the education system was supposed to be free and accessible to everybody and there was concern about parents feeling pressured to pay the ‘‘voluntary donations’’ to bolster the school coffers.

The policy would end the donations for the majority of parents.

‘‘Under National, school donations have jumped by 50% and they continue to rise due to National’s freeze on schools’ operational funding last year,’’ Mr Little said.

Schools would still be able to ask parents to pay for extra-curricular activities.

While schools can request fees for activities such as school camps, they are not allowed to charge or take action against those who do not pay the ‘‘donations’’.

Ministry of Education data shows in 2015 the average donation at a decile 1 school was $85 ranging up to $294 at decile 10 schools.

In 2016, some high-decile schools in Auckland were charging more than $1000, such as Auckland Grammar which got more than $2 million in fees.

Schools took about $109 million in donations in 2014 — up from $75 million in 2008.

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