Fee plea for school ball

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Carly Tawhiao

THE school ball can be one of most mem­o­rable mo­ments in a teenager’s life.

But it could also be an ex­tra-ex­pen­sive time for Mt Al­bert Gram­mar School pupils if they haven’t paid their vol­un­tary do­na­tion.

The ball will be held in July and the $75 tick­ets will cost an ex­tra $20 for fam­i­lies who are yet to front up with the op­tional school fee.

Prin­ci­pal Dale Bur­den says he’s fed up with par­ents not pay­ing the an­nual charge of $230, or $305 for two or more chil­dren.

And he will con­tinue to charge ex­tra un­less par­ents start fork­ing out.

“Do­na­tions make up 40 per­cent of the school’s fund­ing,” he says.

“To re­ceive an ed­u­ca­tion that adds value, we’ve got to be funded.

“So we’ll be do­ing this more and more.”

He says about 70 per­cent of the decile 7 school’s 2340 stu­dents pay the an­nual do­na­tion.

And he doesn’t think fi- nan­cial hard­ship is a valid ex­cuse.

“It works out to be about $5 a week,” he says.

“It’s not poor peo­ple who don’t pay – it’s got noth­ing to do with poverty.”

But a group of se­nior stu­dents dis­agree.

The group, who wish to re­main anony­mous for fear of reprisals, have formed the Mt Al­bert Gram­mar School stu­dents’ so­ci­ety.

“Our head­mas­ter is mak­ing it harder for stu­dents whose fam­i­lies have not paid the school do­na­tion to go to their sixth and sev­enth form ball,” it says.

“Some fam­i­lies can’t af­ford to pay.

“It is a priv­i­lege that se­niors have earned and this is our first step to­wards shut­ting down this un­fair­ness.”

Mr Bur­den adds th­ese prices won’t cover the ac­tual costs of the so­cial event.

But he in­vites any fam­i­lies who are fac­ing gen­uine hard­ship to dis­cuss the mat­ter with him per­son­ally.

“My door is al­ways open,” he says. “Es­pe­cially for stu­dents.”

New Zealand’s as­so­ci­a­tion of secondary prin­ci­pals’ vi­cepres­i­dent Paul Da­ley says most prin­ci­pals would agree that the op­er­a­tional grant pro­vided by the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry is in­ad­e­quate.

“Most schools are find­ing it more and more dif­fi­cult to bal­ance their bud­gets which places a higher de­mand on them to source in­come from their com­mu­nity,” he says.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry guide­lines state schools may ask par­ents or care­givers for do­na­tions, which are vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions to the run­ning of the school.

It says schools can charge for par­tic­u­lar items, ac­tiv­i­ties or events that are op­tional in the de­liv­ery of the cur­ricu­lum, pro­vided the school has ex­plicit ac­cep­tance of the charges by par­ents.

A spokes­woman for Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Anne Tolley says the min­is­ter is keep­ing a close eye on the is­sue and while schools can­not force par­ents to pay do­na­tions, the con­tri­bu­tions helped pro­vide a wider range of ex­pe­ri­ences for pupils.

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