Our Annual Parent Survey suggests poorest families hit hardest by school funding pressures

16 September 2019
Our Annual Parent Survey, now in its fifth year, gauges parental views from a large sample size of 1,500 parents (1,200 in England, 200 in Wales and 100 in Northern Ireland).

The survey is independently distributed to a cross-section of parents outside of PTA membership. This ensures that the results really are indicative of what parents have to say when it comes to their child’s education and schooling.

School funding data – poorer families contributing more to their school fund?

For our 2019 poll, we continue to track parental attitudes on the key issue of school funding to build a year-on-year picture of the effect tightening budgets have on parents’ finances and their child’s school experience.

We first looked at this topic, which continues to dominate education headlines, in 2017. This year, the results show that over half of parents are concerned about the cost of sending a child to school, and most feel that the cost is increasing. We also found that parents whose child is eligible for free school meals (FSM) report that they are more likely to have been asked to make voluntary donations to their school fund, that a greater proportion of them are donating, and that they give higher monthly payments compared to their more affluent peers. Parents continue to report being asked to pay for things that used to be free, such as school clubs, concerts and sports days, while stretched school budgets are seeing money-saving measures normalised in many schools. Parents also tell us how they would like additional funds to be prioritised.

Key headlines

Our latest research shows:

  • 76% of parents think that the cost of sending children to school is increasing and more than half (51%) agree that they are worried about such cost
  • Parents’ concern about the cost of schooling continues to be highest in relation to uniforms (46%), school trips (44%) and school meals/​drinks (19%)
  • Parents of children who are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) are more likely to feel costs are increasing (38% strongly agree vs 31% of parents whose children are not eligible) and to be concerned about them (29% strongly agree vs 15%)
  • Concern over the cost of uniforms is significantly higher for parents whose children are eligible for FSM (61% vs 44%); this is also true about the cost school trips (49% vs 43%) and the cost of school extra-curricular events such as concerts and sport days which parents are asked to pay for (20% vs 13%)
  • 38% of parents reported being asked by their child’s school for a donation to the school fund and 29% donated
  • Parents of children eligible for FSM (45%) were more likely to be asked to donate than those not eligible (38%)
  • The most common cost-cutting solutions that parents report seeing implemented by schools were being asked to pay for school clubs which used to be free (22%) and for events such as sport days or concerts (20%)
  • 55% of parents believe that any potential extra funding available to schools should be spent on learning resources (55%) and 43% think so of IT equipment

Parentkind position on school funding

Parentkind commends all parent groups for the invaluable fundraising efforts they make on behalf of their schools. We welcome recent promises from the government to add substantially to school funding, but even then, academy trusts, governors and school leaders must continue to consult with their parent communities about how school funding is affecting them. This can be achieved most effectively by using a consultative parent body such as a parent council, and ensuring parental engagement is maximised through adoption of our Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools.

These findings clearly show that parents are worried about the increasing cost of sending their child to school and the impact that squeezed budgets are having on the day to day delivery of a good education. It’s hugely concerning to see that the most disadvantaged in our society are bearing the brunt of this burden contributing more to schools and feeling the strain acutely when schools face cost-cutting measures.

It’s interesting to see parents are embracing a wide set of priorities beyond academic attainment, calling for more investment in learning resources, child mental health and SEN services – particularly among those eligible for free school meals — and for improving buildings and maintenance. These are critical to a positive learning environment without which we are failing our children.

Schools should regularly engage with families to fully understand the challenges they face — many already do this well. But, no school funding decision that impacts directly on the families in their community should be made without consultation and particularly if it increases the financial burden placed on parents or results in the unintended consequence of mums and dads participating less in their child’s education.”

John Jolly, CEO of Parentkind

About the research

Our Parent Insight Survey looks at parents’ attitudes and opinions on a number of topics related to their children’s education. This is the fifth 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 curriculum.

The field work took place between 12th June and 3rd July 2019, with 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 representative of the parent population by gender, age and social grade. The Welsh and Northern Ireland sub-samples were boosted to achieve a large enough base of respondents to allow national comparisons.

You can read the full report here.