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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Costs for school activities

Although there is usually no cost in sending your child to a maintained school, you may have to pay for some activities. Find out when schools are likely to charge you for activities related to your child’s education.

Activities during school hours

When an activity is provided wholly or mainly during school hours, it should be free. This even includes activities that might cost the school money, like swimming lessons at a local pool or a museum visit.

Voluntary contributions

Head teachers or governing bodies may ask parents for a voluntary contribution towards the cost of:

  • any activity which takes place during school hours
  • school equipment
  • school funds generally

The contribution must be genuinely voluntary, and the pupils of the parents who can’t or don’t want to contribute cannot be excluded from the activity.

Where there aren't enough voluntary contributions to make the activity possible, and there's no other way to get funds, then the activity must be cancelled.

Residential school visits

Schools can charge for the cost of accommodation during overnight school trips, but the school may not charge more than the accommodation actually costs.

Where the visit takes place wholly or mainly during school hours, pupils whose parents get the following benefits aren't required to pay any charge:

  • Income Support
  • Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Child Tax Credit provided the parent is not entitled to Working Tax Credit and their annual income does not exceed £16,040
  • Guaranteed State Pension Credit

This is in addition to having a free school lunch entitlement.

A similar entitlement applies when:

  • the visit takes place outside of school hours but it is a necessary part of the National Curriculum
  • the visit forms part of the syllabus for an examination that the school is preparing the pupil to sit
  • the visit is part of religious education

Instrumental music tuition

A charge may be made for instrumental music tuition unless:

  • the tuition forms part of the syllabus for an examination that the school is preparing the child to sit, like a GCSE
  • the tuition is part of the National Curriculum or the syllabus for religious education

Public examinations

No charge may be made for entering pupils for public examinations that are on the National Curriculum. However, an examination entry fee may be charged to parents if:

  • the pupil wasn't prepared for the examination at the school
  • the examination isn't on the National Curriculum, but the school arranges for the pupil to take it
  • a pupil fails without good reason to complete the requirements of any public examination where the governing body or local authority (LA) originally paid or agreed to pay the entry fee

Charges may not be made for any cost associated with preparing a pupil for an examination. However, charging is allowed for tuition and other costs if a pupil is prepared outside school hours for an examination that isn't on the National Curriculum.

Getting information about a school's charges

The LA or governing body aren't allowed to charge for anything unless they have drawn up a statement of policy on charging. Parents are entitled to information about a school's charging and remissions policy, and governing bodies must ensure that this is available on request during school hours.

More information on how schools should draw up their charging policies is available on the Teachernet website.

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