A top school will be investigated for adding surcharges to ball and graduation dinner tickets, sports, drama and dance activities - and even fees for Cambridge International exams - if voluntary donations haven't been paid.

Parents at East Auckland's Macleans College who haven't paid the $490 school donation are charged up to $1200 extra. This is unlawful, according to the Ministry of Education.

Schools are allowed to charge for activities and events but they cannot charge an additional fee to parents who haven't made the donation.

Ministry of Education spokeswoman Katrina Casey told the Herald on Sunday that she would seek assurances from Macleans College that:


• Any unlawful charging of fees will cease.

• Students will not have privileges withheld because of non-payment of donations.

• There will be no coercion to pay donations.

As an example of the extra fees, a sporty senior student sitting Cambridge Exams and attending the school ball, graduation dinner, camp and receiving a school magazine could pay as much as $1,250 in surcharges - $760 more than the voluntary donation.

Casey said parents had three choices when paying voluntary contributions: they can "be paid in full, in part, or not at all".

Principal Byron Bentley said the school would not be able to afford to offer the extra activities without charging extra.

"We beg to differ that these charges are unlawful - we had our lawyers look at this years ago," Bentley said.

"These are activities that have nothing to do with the curriculum."