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Should you pay up for your child's school trips?

Talking Point | Published:

Are you happy to pay towards school swimming lessons or music lessons?

What school activities are you willing to pay for?

If I say the words ‘Charging and Remissions Policy’ most people look at me blankly or switch off completely – but it is actually a really important school policy that everyone with school age children should make themselves familiar with.

It isn’t usually long and wordy but as I spend a lot of time explaining it to school staff you can be forgiven, as a parent, for not understanding the detail, writes Emma Gray.

A school’s Charging and Remissions Policy, which should be published on the school website, lays out what a state-funded school can charge for, and perhaps more importantly, what it can’t.

Swimming lessons, day trips, residential trips, visiting theatre groups, music lessons and practical crafts all serve to enrich the curriculum but come at a cost and are the first activities to be cut when times get tough.

Schools, in their effort to maintain the lovely extras, can ask parents for voluntary contributions to support the funding of the activity but, and here is where the confusion often lies, what request for payment is a ‘charge’ and what is a ‘voluntary contribution’?

As a general rule, anything that takes place during normal school time has got to be a voluntary contribution which means that you don’t have to pay, but if not enough voluntary contributions are received then the school can reserve the right to cancel the activity. For activities that take place partly outside of normal school time, such as a residential trip, the policy explains what can be charged for (in that if you don’t pay, you can’t take part) and what is still a voluntary contribution.

Finally, if a trip is completely outside of normal school time, then the whole cost can be charged for.

So, those are the basics, now for the detail. A school genuinely and actively wants every pupil to be able to participate but to do this, they need something from you. They need you to talk to them.

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Conversely, there is nothing more frustrating than a parent who doesn’t communicate at all, which means that I can’t help them. I’ve got lots of options up my sleeve, long payment plans to spread the costs, bursaries to reduce the amount you have to pay and an understanding of what elements of the cost are voluntary and what are not. But I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.

If parents and carers are unable (or choose not) to pay without communication, then the activity is either cancelled, or more likely, doesn’t ever happen again. I think it is such a shame when this happens. So here are my tips for good extra-curricular activity relations with your school;

1) When you get a letter telling you about an activity, respond straightaway.

2) If you can afford to pay, please do so.

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3) If you need assistance, ask for it. The finance office or business manager is there to help you in confidence.

4) No allocation of pupils to an activity with limited numbers should be dependent on your ability to pay to a deadline. Return the slip and give the school a call.

5) Whatever the payment terms, always, always remember to send in the permission slip.

  • Emma Gray is a school business manager and also runs a growing education blog at workingsbm.com

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