Secondary schools experience a conflict when it comes to voluntary parental contributions. On the one hand, they do not want to force parents to pay for extracurricular activities, but on the other hand they do depend on that money for organizing school trips and sports days, for example.
This is one of the conclusions of the Education Inspectorate in a report on the voluntary parental contribution. Last summer, school boards already received the preliminary results of the study because of the worrying results.
A sample of 160 school guides from secondary schools showed that the communication in these guides about the voluntary contribution is often unclear. For example, in 71 percent of the guides it is not made clear that children are always allowed to participate in extra activities, even if their parents have not paid a contribution.
In addition, in 77 percent of the guides it is unclear what the contribution is intended for, or a contribution is requested for something that you can expect the school to finance itself, such as a media library.
Texts in the school guides about the parental contribution are also often formulated in a mandatory manner, according to the Inspectorate. After announcing the provisional results last July, de Volkskrant cited some examples of those texts. For example, a school guide stated: “We therefore urge parents to support us financially by contributing on a voluntary basis to the extra costs for this enriching program.” Another example is: “We expect parents who choose our school to pay the contribution”.
Communication from the schools must therefore be better, if it is up to the Education Inspectorate, but at the same time the report points out that the subject poses a dilemma for schools: “They do not want to exclude students, but also realize an attractive offer”, according to the report. . According to the Inspectorate, this split is the reason why schools often force parents to comply with the voluntary contribution.
Schools with less wealthy parents are the victims
The VO-raad, the association of secondary schools, underlines this dilemma. A spokesperson says that communication about the parental contribution must be clear and that schools must take their responsibility in this regard. In addition, the council supports the rule that all pupils must be able to participate in extracurricular activities. “However”, he adds, “the effect is that schools with pupils from less well off parents organize fewer activities.”
According to the VO council, this goes against the purpose of the new law. “The difference between schools is increasing and that is not conducive from the perspective of equality of opportunity.”
The spokesperson says that he does not have a ready-made solution, but that he can discuss this with administrators in The Hague. “We saw this coming in advance and it is now confirmed from the practice of schools.” The Inspectorate hopes that the Ministry of Education will take this “negative effect” into account when evaluating the law.
Customize texts in guides
When the provisional results were published last summer, the Education Inspectorate already asked a number of schools to adjust the text in the school guide. A spokesman for the Inspectorate says he does not know how many cases this has happened, but emphasizes that it is not only about school guides. “We only have public information available, such as school guides. A lot of communication goes through letters or parent portals. Every form of communication has to go well.”
The Inspectorate recognizes that the parental contribution is a struggle for schools. “The contribution is intended for extra activities, but there is vagueness in it,” said a spokesperson. “The regulations could be made clearer about what is and what is not allowed.”
In addition to making recommendations to schools, the agency calls on the Ministry of Education to assess whether the current law is effective in practice.
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