Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Parents fork out millions

In 2010, 701 schools didn't do any fundraising. That rose to 752 in 2014 - but in most cases parents still pay through PTA fundraisers. Photo / Getty Images
In 2010, 701 schools didn't do any fundraising. That rose to 752 in 2014 - but in most cases parents still pay through PTA fundraisers. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand schools fundraised more than a quarter of a billion dollars between 2010-14.

Ministry of Education figures, released to the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act, reveal five years of fundraising was worth $263.4m to Kiwi schools.

That was on top of another half-billion dollars-plus parents, community groups and alumni pumped into the education system in voluntary donations during the same time.

Donations and fundraising combined were worth a total $791.3m.

And the true figure is likely to be much higher as money raised by parent-teacher associations and given to schools is not included in ministry figures.

In 2010, 701 schools didn't do any fundraising. That rose to 752 in 2014 - but in most cases parents still pay through PTA fundraisers.

Auckland's Massey High School drummed up $4.19m, topping national fundraising statistics four out of the five years.

It was beaten only by a one-off 2013 effort by Te Puke's Pongakawa School which raised $1.18m, the single largest amount across the ministry data.

The figures also show hundreds of schools aren't fundraising at all. Massey High School principal, Glen Denham, said money raised went on areas such as building maintenance not covered by the ministry, and overseas trips.

"Our parents are happy to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in," Denham said.

"Staff also give up their time to support these initiatives."

Auckland's Belmont School did no fundraising. Principal Bruce Cunningham said it was not a school's job to raise money.

"Our PTA does our fundraising for us because there's not enough money. There needs to be re-think, where funding is judged on the child not the school.

"We have to raise about 50 per cent because our operational grant is approximately $450,000 and our budgeted expenditure is in the $700,000s. I've got to find $250,000-$300,000 if I want meet my expenditure.

Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, said the amount of cash raised by some schools was "mind-boggling" and added pressure on Government to make funding more even.

"Parents are under enormous pressure," Hipkins told the Herald on Sunday. "This breaks down an integral Kiwi value that all kids should have equal access to quality education. If the system relies on the ability of parents to pay, not all kids have equal access.

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye said the Government was pouring more money into the sector.

"There's been a dramatic increase in the education budget. [Fewer] schools engage in fundraising but the budget has gone up 23 per cent," Kaye said.

"There may be any number of reasons they want to do that, like a school trip or an asset they want to invest in. A key factor is what schools are fundraising for."

Kaye also said fundraising numbers may appear high, but they were spread over five years, compared to the government's annual education budget of $10.8b.

This week the New Zealand Council for Educational Research published a survey into the challenges of secondary schools and funding was a key issue.

Just 14 per cent of principals said government funding was sufficient. The document also pointed to "clear differences in decile across the survey" including in funding pressure.

Not about cash cows

Westmere School is the top Auckland primary for fundraisers but its approach is not about treating parents and celebrity supporters as cash cows.

High-profile Westmere events have included a fine art auction, "Little Day Out" - a concert line-up including performances by Deceptikonz, Jordan Luck and Mareko - and a Spring Ball that last year charged parents $85 a ticket.

However, Ministry of Education figures reveal the amounts being fundraised at Westmere are modest compared to many other schools.

Ministry data shows Massey High School fundraised $4.19 million from 2010-14. Westmere's events brought in about $440,000.

Westmere's acting principal, Julie Lynch, said the school's approach to fundraising was about community. Lynch said proceeds went to educational extras, not core services.

- Herald on Sunday

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