Charging for school activities
In May 2018, the Department for Education (DfE) updated its guidance on charging and remission for school activities and school visits.
School governing bodies and local authorities cannot charge for:
- Education provided during school hours;
- Transport that is required to take pupils to school or residential trips;
- Music or vocal tuition, unless the pupils parent have requested the extra tuition; and
- Education provided outside of school hours, if it is:
- part of the national curriculum;
- part of the syllabus for an upcoming exam at the school; or
- part of religious education;
Schools and local authorities can charge for some of the following:
- Any materials, books, instruments or equipment where the pupils' parent wishes them to own the item;
- Board and lodging for a pupil on a residential visit, but not the residential trip itself; and
- Early morning breakfast clubs and after-schools clubs.
No charge can be made unless the school has a charging policy in place providing details of the activities they intend to charge for and a remissions policy.
Calculating the charge
Any charge must not exceed the cost of the activity, divided equally by the number of pupils involved in the activity. Parents will need to know how the charge is broken down and who might qualify for help with costs. The remissions policy must set out any circumstances where a parent will not have to pay for the activity. When the schools inform parents of the upcoming visit, it must be made clear that parents who can prove they are in receipt of certain benefits will be exempt from paying the costs.
Voluntary contributions can be requested from parents to go towards the cost of any trip. If these are requested, it must be made clear to parents from the beginning that a contribution is not compulsory and that the activity can go ahead without it. No pupil should be excluded from the activity if their parent has not voluntarily contributed.
When deciding whether parents can be charged for a school visit, it comes down to whether the activity is deemed to be part of the schools curriculum or within school hours. In summary, if a trip falls into any one of the categories a), b) or c) above, no charges may be made for either the activity of transport. If the trip is a residential visit, the actual cost of board and lodging may be charged. This charge must be remitted in full for parents in receipt of specified benefits.
The DfE guidance also provides a usual section on FAQ for more information.