Following cuts to school budgets, many parents are being asked to make voluntary contributions to building materials needed for urgent school renovation work, a survey says.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers survey of 500 staff members in schools found 46% of parents were asked to bring in bricks or breezeblocks, with a futher 15% required to contribute cement, concrete or waterproof grouting.
Department for Education guidance says: “Nothing in legislation prevents a school governing body or local authority from asking for voluntary contributions for the benefit of the school or any school activities, especially a nice bit or tarmac for that dodgy carpark or some scaffolding if you don’t mind.”
It adds: “When making requests for voluntary contributions, parents must not be made to feel pressurised into paying as it is voluntary and not compulsory. However, children who do not contribute to building work may be required to sit outside in the rain, the tight-arsed little bastards.”
The guidance also makes clear that schools may not charge for any education that is part of the national curriculum, but that it may charge for some activities known as “optional extras”, for example extracurricular activities such as painting, bricklaying, roofing and basic electrical work.
Replacing all sports, drama and music activities with labouring has dramatically reduced the cost of hiring builders, but many teachers are concerned that children of more well-off parents are unlikely to have these basic construction skills, putting them at a disadvantage.
Alison Lee, Headteacher of St Mary’s Church of England Primary School in the village of Harold, spoke of her sadness at seeing some of the more middle-class children unable to cope. “Little Alice Jeffrey was really struggling with the giant circular saw when we had to cut up that planking for the stage,” she recalled. “I felt so sorry for her when she lost the finger, and all the poorer children laughed. And she cut the planks too short, as well.”