Friday 27 May 2022

‘Voluntary’ school contributions still pretty compulsory at some schools

Some primary and secondary schools are still excluding children from school trips or other activities if their parents have not paid the voluntary contribution, despite a change in the law, the NRC reports.

The paper bases the claim on reports by Leergeld Nederland, an organisation aimed at preventing the social exclusion of children whose parents cannot afford to pay for school activities, such as trips abroad.

Since August 2021 state schools have to include all children in the activities they organise, regardless of whether or not parents have paid the contribution. Before the change in the law came into effect, children whose parents could not pay were offered alternative activities in school.

Schools are still allowed to ask parents for a contribution but they have to communicate much more clearly that payment is optional and that non-payment can never be a reason for not including the child in whatever activity is being planned.

Leergeld said parents are reporting that they are being sent reminders to pay and threatened their children will be excluded if they don’t. It did not have precise figures on the number of schools but stressed they were in a minority.

Bilingual classes also fall under the voluntary contribution rule but some schools still charge for them as well.

Rules

Government inspectors have said they will actively check up on schools to see if they comply with the new rule and that if they are found in breach they will face financial consequences.

A number of schools have said that they may have to cancel activities because of the new rule, something that would hit schools in underprivileged areas hardest.

Leergeld director Gaby van Biggelaar said schools should reconsider if school trips to China or New York are really necessary. ‘They are not travel agents, after all. But it would be a huge shame it schools with children in danger of exclusion would miss out on their yearly visit to a museum because the money isn’t there.’

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