School Trips and Dinner Debt – THIS IS IMPORTANT
Dear Parents and Carers
Dinner debts (the extent of the problem may surprise you)
I appreciate that this information is not relevant to all families, and I apologise in advance to those whom this is not pertinent, but I feel it important that a clear message is given to the whole school community about a trend that is sadly increasing. Parents have recently enquired why I am not able to extend the Early Birds breakfast club by charging parents for the service; sadly, patterns like this prevent me from establishing such schemes, as the payment risks are high.
This debt is rising. Many families work hard to address this despite many other pressures, but not all.
For perspective, the current dinner debt alone equates roughly to 100 hours of 1-1 support for a child with Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND) or similar group activities for other children.
Bluntly, when parents do not pay for the school dinners when they can they are not playing the system, but passing the costs to the children, preventing me spending that money where it is most needed.
Sadly, some families openly see not paying their dinner debt as socially acceptable and this cannot continue.
It may be assumed that all these families our most vulnerable, but in fact, this is not so in many cases. Our most vulnerable families are supported financially through the Pupil Premium and free school meals or through established agreed payment plans. Sadly, a disproportionate amount of the debt is outstanding simply because some choose not to pay, consciously or subconsciously, assuming that the Government or Local Authority will pick up the debt. In truth, neither do so; the children do.
Ofsted graded this school as ‘good’, and rightly so. The level and quality of support given was complimented repeatedly, but in order to maintain this, parents must play their part. If you owe dinner money, please pay this, so I can provide more for the children at the school.
Please contact the school office if you have received information informing you of outstanding dinner debts; we can help by setting out payment plans or applying for grants such as the Pupil Premium, but need you to play your part.
School Trips – some changes to approach
At Ashgate Primary School we recognise the importance of school trips and outings to support the curriculum and enhance the childhood experiences of all children. Most parents support this view and make valued and appreciated contributions.
The school heavily subsidises school trips and visits to reduce the costs to parents and carers.
The cost of subsidised trips and visits since September 2016, including non-payment of contributions by parents, is close to £13,000
What we ask you to contribute is heavily underwritten and rarely, if ever, represents the full cost. Charges to the school have risen, but we have maintained low voluntary contributions requests for parents. We offset what we can through grant funding, but money is also drawn from the school budget for this purpose.
I do understand that the cost of trips can be challenging, and this is why we subsidise them and where possible provide payment plans to spread costs. We are not blind to the fact that some families are finding the current financial climate challenging; this is why we subsidise heavily and avoid multiple trips.
However, despite this, there continue to be a substantial amount of parents and carers who choose to pay no contribution to trips and visits, knowing full well that I will not pull individual pupils from trips and deny them the experiences others are having. This has a significant impact on the school budget and cannot be maintained.
Sadly, some time ago, I reached the point where school trips can no longer be supplemented at this high level. Real term budget cuts mean that I have to prioritise spending, and covering the cost of non-payment of contributions by parents can not be maintained.
Parents are reminded that, if the money needed to run trips and visits is not received by a given deadline, I will sadly have no choice but to cancel the event. This in itself will be a financial burden on the school, as deposits will be lost, but this is far less than that already paid out by the school when parents have not paid contributions and we have had to fully fund places.
I am not allowed to, nor would I, remove an individual from an educational tripas a result of a parent’s inability to pay or lack of willingness to contribute, but I will be forced to cancel the trip or visit as a whole. Where a trip is not linked to the curriculum, not payment would result in individuals not attending.
We can help, but we need you to speak to us
If you find it difficult to make the contributions asked for trips and visits, please speak to the school office and they will gladly set up a payment schedule. We have done this many times and made the payment of contributions much easier for those struggling. We can be very flexible with timings and spread the contributions out at a level that has minimum impact on you.
I thank you again for your continued support and consideration.