Investigating: The School Fund

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With the new academic year upon us, the time has come to pay the school fund again. But why should we? Isn't education supposed to be free? Where does the money go? These are a few questions we hope to look at in this edition of the "investigating" series.
Now, most of us blindly pay the £15 a year school fund, but why? We did some simple maths to show roughly the kind of figures we?re dealing with here:

How Much Money Do They Get?

Let?s say that 24 out of every 30 pupils actually pay the school fund (because it is of course, voluntary). That?s 80% of the school body. Now, there are 28 pupils in a class and six classes in a year (except of course year 10). So, in years 7-11 there are 870 pupils. Plus there are about 400 pupils across the sixth form, all in all that all makes 1270 pupils. If 80% pay, then that?s around 1000 pupils paying school fund. That?s £15,000!

What we must also take into account, is that the School Fund is a registered charity (yes? the school is officially a charity case!); which means that not only does the school not pay any tax on this money, but that if parents sign a consent form the school can claim an additional 28% on top of the £15k through the ?Gift Aid? scheme. Let?s say that 80% of our 1000 pupils consent to ?Gift Aid?, that adds an additional £3300 to our total. Therefore, we predict that the school raises approximately £18,000 in revenue through the school fund. Astonishing!

Where does it all go?

Perhaps more importantly than how they get it, is what they use it for. Now, according to the school documents on the matter, the money is spent on:

---The student planners
---Subsidising Mini-bus costs
---Paying for the underprivileged to go on school trips.

Now we?ll break that down ? Firstly the planners. Now the office charges £3 for a replacement school planner, so we can assume that the actual cost of a planner is not far from that. We?ll assume that, at worst, its £4.50 a planner. Now 1300 lots of £4.50 is approximately £5900, that?s a little less than a third of the school fund budget gone.

Next; the minibus - According to the school blurb, the school fund covers half of student travel costs on the minibus, while the rest is paid for by the students. So when the football team goes off to play away, we are paying half of their travel costs; as well as that we pay half the costs of pupils in years 10-13 who have PE lessons off-site (now is not the time to debate whether this is a good use of school funds). Now, in industry and commerce travel costs are priced at between 35-50 pence per mile (Taken from Croner?s guide to employment). This is recognised as being sufficient to cover petrol, wear and tear etc etc. We?ll assume the minibus has similar running costs, but to be conservative we?ll take the running cost as 50 pence / mile. That means the school fund should be contributing 25 pence / mile.

The mileage covered by the minibus is hard to estimate, but we reckon that its somewhere around 4100 (that?s an eighteen mile round trip, 6 days a week, thirty-eight weeks a year). So 4100 lots of 25 pence is around £1000.

And thirdly, paying for the under-privileged to go on school trips. It should be pointed out that schools have to meet these costs, but many schools simply pay it out of the main budget. Now, let us assume 3 out of 30 pupils need their trips subsidising. That?s 10% of the school body. We?ll assume that (on average) there are two trips a year, each costing £15. 10% of our school body is 127 pupils, each having £30 spent on them a year, so that?s another £2000.

When we add all this up? We?ve managed to account for about half of the £18k. So where does the rest go? That?s the million-dollar question.

And The Other £9,000 ?

This story was originally intended for release in our September issue, prior to our banning we had hoped to meet with the School?s business manager to discuss with him the other nine thousand pounds of our money. However, what with our current situation with the school, we are not allowed to do this.

The school blurb does say that some of the remaining money is spend on ?on off?s? like repairing lockers. What?!? We hear you ask, the school?s lockers are in a terrible state and only minimal repair work ever takes place, certainly not running into a cost of thousands of pounds.

So in truth we don?t know where this remaining money goes! Of course all our calculations are estimates; however, we feel conservative estimates. This leads us onto the question of whether we should pay school fund at all.

Should We Pay Anyway?

We?ve seen that our money pays for our planners, sports teams transport and trips for the underprivileged. But should we be paying for all this? When we are given our planners each year we are usually reminded that they are ours ?on load? and should not be defaced or misused. But if we?re paying for them, why shouldn?t they be ours?

As for the trips, meeting the cost of trips is something a school has to do. Surely, in our eyes, it would be a much fairer system if each trip?s cost was met by the pupils going on it, with the school making up any deficit out of its own funds. Even if there were no school fund, the school would be legally required to pay for anyone to go on the trip who cannot pay themselves.

We feel that the same thing should apply to the minibus, why charge people who take no interest in school sports teams, and don?t use the minibus for PE? We feel that the cost of transport for sports fixtures is not something we should be paying for! The cost should either be met out of the PE budget, or from those in the team. Sports teams are great for those involved, but they do not actually benefit any of us in any way. Once again here had we not been banned we would have arranged to see the head of PE (we?re not supposed to even name teachers according to the school!).

Bearing all this in mind, should we pay a school fund? My stance as a reporter is that we should not. In fact I actively suggest not paying the school fund. The fund is voluntary anyway. I believe that in a supposedly free education system there is no need for parents and students to fork out an extra, unnecessary amount of money for no real gain.