A crackdown on donations means schools cannot afford some courses.

Financially strapped secondary schools are cutting back on classroom activities, dropping field trips, ditching science experiments and even removing courses after a crackdown on parent donation rules.

A New Zealand Secondary Principals' Council survey into funding guidelines set by the Ministry of Education in 2013 has revealed:

• Nearly two-thirds of high schools report a reduction in school finances

• NCEA assessments have been affected

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• Students now go on "in-school" field trips

• Pupils are not as "engaged" in scaled-back activities and

• Some principals have "chosen" to ignore funding guidelines.

The survey was done to gauge the impact of the new funding guidelines that meant schools were unable to ask parents for money for activities considered part of the national curriculum.

The guidelines were introduced to tackle the long-contentious issue between parents who cannot afford donations and schools who say they need them to make ends meet.

Schools can still solicit donations for voluntary activities such as cultural and sporting trips.

In one case a secondary school had to abandon an NCEA Level 2 biology field trip to the beach because it could not afford to hire a bus.

The science teacher had to apply to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to alter the data collection assessment so the students would not fail.

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Another school was forced to alter its science curriculum by reducing experiments to trim costs.

One school said it had done away with activities outside the school gates, including a sea kayaking standard for year 12 physical education students.

Principals reported outdoor education programmes, food, hospitality and technology courses could be affected by the funding guidelines.

However, some of the 54 principals surveyed said they couldn't "afford" to be compliant with the guidelines, and others "had chosen to ignore" the edicts.

Most recent figures available show parents paid more than $357 million in donations and fundraising drives in 2012 - up $16m on the previous year.

The recently released Budget saw the Government fund school operational grants to the tune of $1.32 billion for the 2015/16 financial year.

But the NZSPC said that was not enough to meet costs, particularly for low decile schools.

Auckland schools surveyed by the Herald on Sunday echoed some of the findings of the NZSPC survey.

Southern Cross Campus acting principal Warren Waetford said the Mangere decile one school had to be "very innovative" about making ends meet. This year's senior student geography trip to Tongariro National Park was going ahead but had been reduced from a three-day camp to just one night.

Papatoetoe's Aorere High principal Greg Pierce said the decile two school was constantly refining what it did with an increasing reliance on community trusts to help fund some activities.

"We have to live within our means and it's becoming more difficult," he said.

Rangitoto College principal David Hodge said the decile 10 school relied on funds raised through international fee-paying students to bankroll 60 per cent of operating expenditure.

He said the ministry funded just 16 per cent of the school's information technology course.

"What is most annoying is the ministry has an expectation schools are going to do a whole lot of things really well but they don't fund them," he said.

But Education Ministry deputy secretary of student achievement Dr Graham Stoop said the operational grant funding, when combined with the resourcing schools received for employing teachers, was suitable for meeting the costs of a modern curriculum.