Schools must have a charging and remissions policy in place to charge for any activity. This is to ensure that, during the school day, all children have full and free access to a broad and balanced curriculum.
Frequently asked questions:
What is a charging policy?
Under the charging provisions set out in legislation, governing bodies and local authorities of state funded schools may choose to charge for certain defined activities, but only if they have first drawn up charging and remissions policies. These policies should be made available to parents on request.
How does this relate to academies?
Academies (including free schools, studio schools and university technical colleges) are required through their funding agreements to comply with the law on charging for school activities.
Can governing bodies charge for educating children in maintained schools and academies?
The local authority or governing body cannot charge for education that takes place in school hours. Nor can they charge for activities that take place outside school hours if these are part of the national curriculum, necessary as part of a syllabus for a prescribed public examination that the pupil is being prepared for at the school, or part of religious education. They can charge for permitted ‘optional extras’, provided they have drawn up a statement of general policy on charging and given details of ‘optional extras’ they intend to charge for. The governing body’s policy does not have to be the same as the local authority’s policy, as long as it meets the requirements of the law.
Can a school charge for an activity that takes place out of school hours?
This kind of activity is often referred to as an 'optional extra'. Where an optional extra is being provided, a charge can be made for providing materials, books, instruments, or equipment. The actual charge for the optional extra cannot exceed the actual cost of the provision. Schools cannot and must not make a profit from charging for optional extras. Participation in any optional extra activity will be on the basis of parental choice and a willingness to meet the charges. Parental agreement is therefore a necessary prerequisite for the provision of an optional extra where charges will be made.
Can a school ask parents for voluntary contributions?
Schools may invite parents and others to make voluntary contributions to make school funds go further. All requests to parents for voluntary contributions must make it clear 13 that the contributions would be voluntary. It should be remembered that education provided during school hours must be free. This includes materials, equipment, and transport provided in school hours by the local authority or by the school to carry pupils between the school and an activity. Governing bodies should also clearly explain that children of parents who do not contribute will not be treated any differently, and that the activity might be cancelled if insufficient contributions are received.
The school has sent letters out to parents asking for contributions towards a school visit, do parents have to pay?
Head teachers or governing bodies may ask parents for voluntary contributions towards the cost of:
• any activity which takes place during school hours
• school equipment
• school funds generally.
Children of parents who are unable, or unwilling, to contribute may not be discriminated against. However, if insufficient voluntary contributions are received to cover the cost of the visit, or activity, and there is no alternative method to make up the shortfall, then the school should cancel the activity/visit. It would be advisable to make parents aware of a possible cancellation to the activity/visit if insufficient voluntary contributions are received from the outset.
What happens if the school is not able to raise enough voluntary contributions to cover costs? Where there are not enough voluntary contributions, and there is no way to make up the shortfall, for example school funds and/or fundraising activities, then it must be cancelled. The possibility of the activity/visit being cancelled due to a shortfall in contributions should be made clear in the information sent to parents.
What if a parent is unable, or unwilling to make a voluntary contribution? How does this affect their child(ren)?
The school cannot exclude a child from taking part in an activity that is part of the national curriculum purely on the grounds that the parent or carer cannot make, or refuses to make, a contribution. This can clearly place schools in some difficulty on occasions where a number of parents/carers might be in such a position. The school then has to decide whether they can cover the costs of such activity from within the budget or by fundraising, or whether the activity has to be cancelled.