New research launched today (Thursday 1st November 2018) shows that the average monthly voluntary donation made by parents to the school fund* has increased by more than a quarter, rising to £11.35 in 2018 from a reported £8.90 in 2017.
Parentkind, the national charity that supports parents in taking an active role in their children’s education, has launched the findings from its latest annual parent survey which highlights that two in five parents have been asked to contribute to the fund, which is used to ensure all children are able to participate fully in every aspect of school life.
Although respondents most commonly donate less than £10 a month (45% in 2018, down from 50% in 2017 and 53% in 2016), well over a quarter (29%) are giving between £10 and £30, a figure that has risen substantially from just a fifth (21%) in 2016. Encouragingly, more parents reported knowing how this money is spent, with over half (51%) stating as such, compared to just over a third of parents (38%) in 2017.
Further findings from the research showed that to help meet education funding shortfalls, parents have reported that schools have asked:
- Over a quarter of them to pay for school clubs that used to be free (26%) as well as being asked to pay to attend events such as sports days and concerts (28%)
- A fifth (21%) to supply teaching equipment (stationery, books, glue pens etc), up from 15% in 2017; and
- More than one in 10 (12%) to supply essentials such as toilet paper, which is up from 7% the previous year.
More parents this year have also reported that schools have reduced the number of teaching assistants (18% versus 15% in 2017); and the length of the school week (8% versus 5% in 2017).
Around half (49%) of all parents believe the pressures on school budgets have negatively impacted their child's education. Of the cost-cutting measures suggested by schools, the following were felt to have the most negative impact:
- Four out of five (84%) parents said reducing the length of the school week (although this suggestion is the least likely to be implemented); and
- Increasing class sizes and reducing the range of subjects as well as the suggestion to reduce the number of support staff (which is reportedly happening in 15% of schools).
Regional differences showed parents in London were more likely to report that schools have implemented cost-cutting solutions across the board e.g. reducing the number of teaching assistants/support staff (32% vs 18% nationally) and reducing the length of the school day (21% vs 10% nationally).
Parents from the North West are also more likely than those in some other regions to report schools asking them to pay for events (33%), for school clubs (30%) and to help with maintenance activities (18%). Parents in Wales are more likely to report that schools have increased class sizes (21%) compared to some regions in England (particularly the East of England, East Midlands and the South West).
Michelle Doyle Wildman, Acting CEO of Parentkind, commented on the findings saying:
“Parentkind’s annual parent survey provides a compelling yardstick of the state of play in our schools by their principal stakeholder - parents. It’s vital that schools and decision-makers see education from the parent perspective.
“Mums and Dads have told us that they are donating more to the school fund and are under increasing pressure to pay for clubs, materials and events that used to be free. Not only does this indicate that the impact of school funding shortfalls on families has been underestimated, it also raises the spectre that increasing parental financial contributions may have the unintended consequence of reinforcing and increasing educational disadvantage - driving a wedge between home and school.
“It’s clear that parents are concerned about the levels of investment in our children’s education and development and are seeing undesirable changes at the coalface. Parents have a right to have a say on decisions which impact on their families, especially if measures such as reducing the school day, mental health support or subject choice are on the agenda. We encourage schools to seek to consult and work with parents on tackling these resourcing issues together so that all children are given the opportunity to achieve.”
Read more and download the full school funding report here
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Download our full school funding Policy Position
For further information, please contact the Parentkind press office on Tel 01732 375 477 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Notes to editors
Parentkind is the new name for PTA UK. Parentkind is a registered charity that champions all the ways that parents can participate in education and is the leading Parent Teacher Association (PTA) membership organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Parentkind also provides training and resources to teachers, governors and parents to build successful home-school relationships. See more at www.parentkind.org.uk
*Voluntary School Fund – Many schools request parents contribute to the ‘voluntary school fund’ which is specifically intended to be used to subsidise school trips or special activities in which the school wishes children to participate. It is accounted for separately to, but supplements, the public money allocated to a school.
About the research
Parentkind’s Annual Parent Survey looks at parents’ attitudes and opinions on a number of topics related to their child’s education. This is the fourth wave of the survey (the first one was run in September 2015) and as well continuing to track parental attitudes year on year, it also asks parents their views on a number of new topics including perceptions of effectiveness of schools’ communications with parents; the importance of parental influence of children’s education; children’s mental health and wellbeing at school ; attributes that children should have when they leave school; and attributes of a successful school and parents’ satisfaction.
The survey was conducted online by Research Now. Respondents were recruited through their UK panel and took part in the survey from 13th Aug – 7th Sep 2018. It involved a total sample of 1,500 parents (England - 1,200, Northern Ireland - 100 and Wales -200) who have at least one child aged 5-18 attending state school. The sample is representative of the of the parent population by gender, age and social grade. The Welsh and Northern Irish sub-samples were boosted to achieve a large enough base of respondents to compare findings across the three nations of England, Northern Ireland and Wales.