Parents tricked into paying donation ‘fees’
School principals are trying to trick parents into paying voluntary contributions by calling them "fees" and said children will be excluded from excursions if parents' "term fees" are not up to date.
The state's P&C Federation yesterday told The Daily Telegraph the "high pressure tactics" were in contravention of the Department of Education's parental contributions policy.
It is understood Kenthurst Public School in Sydney's northwest has issued an apology to parents after incorrectly referring to the voluntary contribution as "fees".
"School fees will be issued shortly and we thank you in advance for your support," the school said in a newsletter last week.
The use of the term was incorrect and the reference to fees has now been removed from the online version of the newsletter.
It is understood The Junction Public School in Newcastle has also apologised to parents after telling them about their $100 "2020 fees" were payable.
"Our general Term 1 notes have all been issued over the last few weeks and this includes an Invoice for programs and resources used by students in the classroom," the newsletter said.
When questioned by the Education Department, it is understood the school said they would remind parents next week that the contributions were purely voluntary.
The state's P&C Federation lashed the shaming of children for not paying the fees.
"Using high-pressure tactics on parents to pay voluntary contributions is troubling to us and is against the spirit, if not the letter, of the legislation and the Education Department's policies," the spokesman said.
"Under that policy, and under the NSW Education Act, curriculum delivery is free of charge and voluntary contributions are exactly that - voluntary."
Maroubra Bay Public School in the city's east this week told parents "school fee" statements had been mailed to parents but said parents experiencing financial difficulty could discuss their circumstances with the school.
The policy states principals must "ensure that no student or family suffers any discrimination or embarrassment over failure to make a voluntary or subject contribution."
Wollongong's Keiraville Public School issued a letter to parents saying if "term school fees" went unpaid children would not be able to participate in activities.
It is understood the term fees covered extra-curricular activities like band and sport.
"As introduced last year, if school fees are not up to date students will not be able to participate in the planned events," the school newsletter said.
"We cannot accept payment just for the event when your account is in arrears."
Former school deputy principal and Shooters and Fishers upper house MP Mark Banasiak said school costs were blown out by the controversial Local Schools Local Decisions policy, which forces principals to engage department approved suppliers who "charge like wounded bulls" for work around the school.
"A drastic review into the procurement system is needed to ensure schools and our students are not being ripped off and not having to take these steps," he said.
A Department of Education spokesman said contributions are voluntary and payment is a matter for decision by parents.
"Principals are to ensure that no student or family suffers any discrimination or embarrassment over failure to make a voluntary or subject contribution," he said.
According to Department of Education data, NSW Schools raked in $31.6 million in voluntary contributions in 2018, the latest year for which data is recorded.
Parents at Sydney Boys High School forked out the most, giving just over $1 million dollars, followed by Burraneer Bay Public School where parents donated $495,095 in 2018.
Epping Boys High School raised $427,331 while James Ruse Agricultural High School raised $364,667 and Balgowlah North Public School raised $360,553.