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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

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

An activity must be free if it's:

  • wholly or mainly during school hours
  • outside of school hours but is part of the National Curriculum

This even includes activities that might cost the school money, like swimming lessons at a local pool or a visit to a museum.

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 schools must not put pressure on parents to contribute. Pupils of 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 board and lodgings during overnight school trips, but the charge may not be more than the accommodation actually costs.

Where the visit is wholly or mainly during school hours, parents who get the following benefits aren't required to pay any charge for board and lodgings:

  • 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 £16,190
  • Guaranteed State Pension Credit

Instrumental music tuition

Charges may be made for instrumental and vocal tuition which takes place during the school day, if the parent requests the tuition. The school can't charge when the pupil is in the care of the Local Authority.

Charges may be made when the tuition is not an essential part of any of the following:

  • the National Curriculum
  • a public examination syllabus
  • first access to the Key Stage 2 instrumental and vocal tuition, Wider Opportunities programme

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
  • the examination isn't part of 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.

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

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