Parents threatened with debt collectors for falling just 50p into debt to school over lunch money, survey finds

Camilla Turner
 Nearly one in five parents said they had been in arrears or debt to their children’s school - PA

Schools are threatening parents with debt collectors if they fall just 50p into debt over lunch money, a survey of parents has revealed.

Nearly one in five parents said they had been in arrears or debt to their children’s school. Of those over one in ten said that a sanction was applied to their child as a result of the debt.

This included their children being banned from music lessons or from after school clubs until their parents cleared their debt.

The survey of almost 4,000 parents, conducted by The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), found that parents felt harassed by schools after declining to make financial donations which headteachers had insisted were “voluntary”.

Almost a fifth of parents said they are asked to make a regular financial donation to their child's school Credit: Gareth Fuller

One parent told the survey: “On one occasion I was in arrears by 50p with dinner money (it transpired that this was actually an error in the schools part).

“However I received a very strong 'round robin' text from the school telling me to clear my debt otherwise it would be passed into a debt agency.

“I was also told that if I was in arrears with dinner money my daughter wouldn't receive a school dinner and if I didn't send in a packed lunch the matter would be referred to social services.”

Other parents told how they received text messages from the school chasing them up for “voluntary” donations the school had asked for, and how teachers would “hassle” children about the money as well. 

Other parents told how they received text messages from the school chasing them up for “voluntary” donations Credit: Gareth Fuller

Almost a fifth of parents said they are asked to make a regular financial donation to their child's school, and in some cases parents have been asked to contribute more than £100 a year. The findings also shows that many families are being asked to hand over money to pay for pens, pencils, ipads and computers.

The findings come amid concerns from  school leaders and teachers about growing funding pressures in England's state schools.

Almost one in five (18 per cent) of parents said that they had been asked to complete a standing order or direct debit for a regular donation. Just over a third (38 per cent) said they have made a contribution for their child to take part in after-school activities, lessons or clubs outside formal childcare.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said that "substantial financial pressures" are now being placed on parents and carers.

"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," she said.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said that no parent is required to make a contribution to their child's education, adding: “the rules are clear on this and no policies have been introduced by this government to allow schools to charge parents”.

RegisterLog incommenting policy

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes