Our local primary school has taken a big loan to fund a new staffroom without knowing where the money was going to come from, and it is now struggling to make ends meet.
As a Voluntary Aided school the governors are responsible for paying ten percent of any capital expense, but decided to apply for a grant from the local authority first. The loan to cover the remainder needs servicing, and parents are being squeezed.
Prospective parents are invited to fill in direct debit forms along with the applications. Existing parents are charged for lessons for which, at most, voluntary contributions could be asked. Entry to see the Christmas plays was by bought ticket only. Children were even told, illegally, that they would be withdrawn from swimming lessons if parents didn't ante up.
As the headteacher told me in a private communication, the shool was concerned that if parents knew that payments were entirely voluntary, many wouldn't pay up.
Most tastelessly, though, the poorest families have had five pound vouchers dangled in front of them, theirs if they apply for free school meals. The free meals don't have to be eaten, the newsletter goes on, just claimed. The school can then claim an extra 70 pounds from the government's 'School Standards Grant (Personalisation)', which normally pays just five pounds per child at the school.
So the school knows there are some families on social security who haven't registered for whatever reason. But to try to bribe such people, with just five pounds when they have been asked to pay for a free state eduuation, is crass.
The school must think parents can be bought cheaply. I know running a school is costly, but the schools are there as a service to parents and children. Families should not be seen simply as funding units.