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Friday, 12 May, 2000, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Schools' struggle to raise money
boarded up houses
Many schools in deprived areas are missing out
Some schools in England manage to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay for resources and equipment their budgets will not stretch to.

Others struggle to raise mere hundreds, with many collecting less than 1,000 a year.

This, say researchers, is the rich-poor divide between UK schools which is getting wider.

There are no prizes for guessing that the schools finding it hardest to raise funds are having to cope with high levels of deprivation and disadvantage.

Families who don't know where their next meal is coming from don't have any money to spend at bring-and-buy sales.

Margaret Morrissey

But just how difficult is it for schools to rake in money when their pupils' parents don't have enough money of their own?

According to Margaret Morrissey, chair of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, the problems are immense.

She said one of the worst accusations made about parents in deprived areas is that they do not care.

Extras or essentials?

She said: "There is a real problem. It doesn't mean parents are not interested and are not trying, because they do.

"There are some parents in deprived areas, mainly related to drug and alcohol problems, who are not interested or involved in their children's education.

"But there are an equal number of parents in deprived areas who try very hard to raise money for schools. They see quite rightly that the way for their children to get out of the poverty trap is through education.

"But they obviously don't have the money in their own pockets to spend, and this has a significant impact on schools."

Ms Morrissey said that her organisation had, over many years, helped to involve parents in raising money to provide "extras" for schools.

But she said: "We have seen a real sea-change over the last five years, as those extras have become essentials, such as textbooks, in some cases freeing up money to provide extra teaching support, and IT equipment, although that has slightly improved.

'Moral blackmail'

"We're talking about things like a school minibus, which is a big thing to a lot of schools which can't afford to run hire buses.

"These are the schools in deprived areas where the children desperately need to get out and visit different places as they're not getting that at home, where they equally can't afford it.

"It's things like furniture - where very big children using very small furniture can lead to health and safety problems. It's all kinds of things.

"Why should it just be children in the leafy suburbs getting all these things?

"Parents do want to contribute to their children's schools, but now people think that if they don't, they're not interested - it's moral blackmail."

'Schools are not companies'

Ms Morrissey said that schools did their best to raise money, but in areas of low employment, they couldn't go to large companies to ask for help.

They also had the added problem that businesses did not want the publicity of being involved with schools which weren't "high-flying".

Some schools even had problems staging simple fundraising initiatives, such as bring-and-buy sales.

"Families who don't know where their next meal is coming from don't have any money to spend at bring-and-by sales, they don't have clothes they have out-grown and can donate," she said.

"More and more money is going into education, but we've got to stop treating schools as companies.

"We've got to stop asking governors to raise money - we've made governors into entrepreneurs, which is not what they were every intended to be. Anyway, schools in deprived areas sometimes can't even get a full governing body, so they're losing out all ways really."

Ms Morrissey said the government was trying to help schools in deprived areas with new initiatives, but it still was not doing nearly enough.

She added that money should be available for schools to fund a teacher to work with parents, giving them help and advice on fundraising.

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12 May 00 | Education
Schools' rich-poor divide
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