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I am sure that a policy of scrapping school donations would have sounded quite appealing to many parents at the last election. However the reality is likely to be a disappointment to local parents since the scheme is only being made available to Decile 1 to 7 schools. This means that most of the 45 schools in the Selwyn electorate will not be eligible because they are classed as Decile 8, 9 or 10. This is unfortunate as there are still disadvantaged families in these school communities.

It seems crazy that the Government is basing its donations policy on a school’s decile rating when it has recently admitted that the decile system is flawed and has indicated it intends to replace it with an “Equity Index” in the next couple of years.

To make matters even worse, all schools are having to review charges for stationery, workbooks, school trips and camps as part of the implementation of this policy because the Ministry of Education is enforcing new guidelines around what constitutes a donation.

Most schools have been charging for school camps, day trips and stationery packs for years but now they will only be able to do so if these things are not considered part of the school curriculum, which seems a nonsense. Some schools have indicated that they will either face losing tens of thousands of dollars or will have to consider doing away with school camps as they fear that parents will not pay for these once it is made clear that the payment is considered a voluntary donation. One school has estimated it could be $150,000 worse off as a result of both being excluded from the scheme and the enforcement of new guidance on donations.

It is not surprising that only a third of schools eligible for the Government’s school donations scheme have taken it up so far given how unfair and complicated the policy is turning out to be. Some schools are still working out how out of pocket they will be, and whether they will have to cut how they provide education in other areas.

The Government has created a very difficult situation for principals and boards who are dealing with parents with high expectations, but the reality is numerous schools are working out they will be worse off as a result of enforcing the new rules and the payment in lieu of donations not covering what they currently receive from parents.

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