Charging for school activities

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Schools (including academies) are restricted by law on what they can and cannot charge for. They cannot charge for education provided during school hours but they can charge for ‘optional extras’ such as residential visits. The DfE has issued new advice reminding schools of what they are (and aren’t) entitled to charge for, and how to go about charging. Some key things to note from this advice are:

  • Schools cannot ask for charges unless the governing body or the local authority has drawn up a charging policy giving details of the optional extras that they intend to charge for, and a remissions policy
  • The remissions policy must set out any circumstances in which the school or local authority proposes to remit (in whole or in part) any charge, e.g. they may choose not to charge children who receive free school meals
  • Schools can ask parents for voluntary contributions for optional extra activities but cannot pressurise parents into paying. However, they can make it clear that if they do not receive sufficient contributions, the activity will be cancelled
    Schools must not exclude any child from an activity simply because their parents are unwilling or unable to pay but as stated above, they can make it clear that the activity will be cancelled if sufficient contributions are not received
  • Schools cannot ask some parents to subsidise others that might be unwilling or unable to pay. The charge for each child must not exceed the actual cost of providing the optional extra activity, divided equally by the number of pupils participating.

The advice also deals with charging for the use of community facilities, for example a swimming pool or gym at the school that is open to the general public outside of school hours. Our previous article At your leisure looked at this. Schools can charge for the use of these facilities, and can also generate a profit, as long as it is spent on the purposes of the school and/or on community facilities. It is important to stay within the bounds of charity law if you intend to do this, and Walker Morris can help you.