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Almost a fifth of parents at state schools are being asked to make regular financial donations
Some are even being asked to stump up cash for activities which exam courses require.
Many reported feeling pressure to pay even though it was voluntary so that their children did not miss out or feel embarrassed.
Others said that costs dictated which schools and subjects they chose for their children.
The survey by the NASUWT teaching union, this weekend holding its annual conference in Manchester, came amid complaints of a growing funding squeeze on English schools.
The Government says school funding is at record high but critics say that is due to there being more children and that a cash freeze since 2015 on spending-per-pupil has caused real-terms cuts.
Meanwhile Tory MPs are threatening to rebel against the Government’s proposed new formula for distributing education funding which many areas say will hit them hard.
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The NASUWT survey of nearly 4,000 parents in December and January found 18 per cent had been asked to complete a standing order or direct debit for a regular donation.
The costs of attending some schools are now acting as a barrier to parents
Of these, just over half were told it was to enhance resources, 23 per cent that it was because of budget cuts, 18 per cent that it was to improve extra-curricular activities, and nine per cent that it was for a specific project.
Of those putting an annual figure on their donation, 61 per cent said they had given up to £50 a year, 19 per cent that they had paid between £51 and £100, 20 per cent paid more than £101, and six per cent had handed over £400 or more.
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Some were asked to pay for activities which exam course require
Over two thirds of parents were told to buy uniform from a named supplier, with 49 per cent getting the same directions for PE kit and equipment. Limiting the options to one supplier often pushes up prices, said the union.
Some 86 per cent said they had to buy pens and pencils, 21 per cent had been asked for paper, and nearly a fifth were required by the school to purchase computer equipment.
Five per cent said equipment costs affected what subjects their children chose to study and nearly a quarter had been put off a particular school because of the potential costs.
A fifth of parents reported falling into arrears on lunch or activity payments, with many saying the school had handled the issue insensitively.
Fifteen per cent said costs had kept their children from joining school trips in the past year.
Of parents who had not been asked to make a regular contribution, 13 per cent say they had still given money because schools expected them to, and 16 per cent that they had paid in voluntarily.
Union general secretary Chris Keates claimed Government policies had resulted in parents and carers facing “substantial financial pressures.
He said: “The costs of attending some schools are now acting as a barrier to parents accessing their school of choice for their children and are effectively a covert form of selection.
“The NASUWT is clear that access to education must not be based on parents’ ability to pay.
“It is not only unacceptable that the curriculum options for young people are being determined by whether their parents can pay for books, equipment or field trips, but some of these practices may also be unlawful.”
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Many parents reported feeling pressured to pay even though it was voluntary
An Education Department spokeswoman said: “No parent is required to make a contribution to their child’s education, the rules are clear on this and no policies have been introduced by this government to allow schools to charge parents.
“School funding is at its highest level on record at almost £41 billion in 2017-18 and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise over the next two years, to £42 billion by 2019-20.
“We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures and will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways.
“This includes improving the way they buy goods and services and our recently published School Buying Strategy is designed to help schools save over £1billion a year by 2019-20 on non-staff spend.”
Workload, targets and an ever-narrowing curriculum are making it increasingly hard for teachers to promote the “joy of learning”, NASUWT National President Fred Brown told the conference.
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Others said the costs dictated which schools and subjects they chose for their children
The Belfast teacher said too many enthusiastic young teachers were leaving because they were “demoralised … and hate all the nonsense which pollutes education”.
Calling for action to tackle teacher workloads, he said: “If the teacher is stressed out and unhappy, the pupils will also be stressed out and unhappy.
“There is nothing selfish in the NASUWT struggle for a manageable workload, professional status and an acceptable work-life balance.
“These things are vital if our children and young people are to receive an education which enables them to achieve their potential.”
Noting that people from every walk of life had benefited from education, he concluded: “What is good in our global society is possible because of teachers. We are, truly, the guardians of civilisation.”