Sunderland free school insists it’s not asking parents to pay for teachers

The Parents Council from Grindon Hall Free School sent letters to families of pupils asking for cash to fund teachers, books and equipment.

The Parents Council from Grindon Hall Free School sent letters to families of pupils asking for cash to fund teachers, books and equipment.

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A Sunderland free school insists it is not asking parents to fund teaching after some launched their own £40,000 fundraising campaign.

The Parents Council from Grindon Hall Free School sent letters to families of pupils asking for cash to fund teachers, books and equipment.

For the avoidance of doubt, the school has not and will not request parents to fund teaching provision.

School statement

It states “staffing levels are stretched to the maximum and there is no additional money available in the budget to help the school”.

The letter, which invites parents to set up a direct debit, says that £100 to £2,500 would help buy books for the English department; £5,000 to £10,000 would buy IT equipment; between £10,000 and £15,000 would pay for electronic gates; £20,000 would fund additional teaching support and £40,000 would cover a teacher, plus support.

It adds: “With your help and your kind generosity, we as parents can do something to help the school now. If the ultimate target of £40,000 is raised it would pay for new teaching staff.

“If the money falls short of the target, then the money will be spent in the areas indicated. If every parent pledged just £10 a month, we would raise £71,000 in a year. Parents can make a difference.”

However, the school has said it believes the letter asking for “vital funds” was sent out in confusion after a finance meeting, which also involved the schools Parents, Teachers and Pupils’ Association (PTPA).

The Regional Schools Commissioner has previously recommended the school accept Bright Tribe as a sponsor, which school leaders have described as “the best option available”.

And while the school talks of these being “uncertain and often emotive times” it has moved to clarify its position on funding.

A statement issued by school governors, members and the principal read: “We are always grateful for the efforts of parents to help fund the school and voluntary contributions are very much welcomed. However, we have to make it clear that state education must be free and therefore we need to be very careful in making any requests to parents for funding. Schools are not allowed to ask parents to set up direct debits.

“We think it is clear that recent communications on funding have come from the parent council and PTPA, though we do understand some parents have expressed some confusion.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the school has not and will not request parents to fund teaching provision.”

Grindon Hall was thrown into controversy last year when it was placed in special measures by Ofsted chiefs.

Parents were outraged by the inspectors’ judgement that pupils were intolerant to different faiths and cultures,and hundreds joined a support group backing the school.

However, after a more recent visit, inspectors said the school is making reasonable progress towards the removal of special measures and the action plans are fit for purpose.