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inspiring learning through technology

Financing schemes

Paul's reflectionsThe good, the bad and the ugly!

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about financing schemes so I thought I’d add my pennyworth. There never seems enough money to do everything you want regardless of how much you have although there are a few people I can think of where I suspect that’s not entirely true. Where it absolutely is true, however, is in schools and has been the case for most of history (well – my half century of history at least).

So it makes sense to look beyond formal budgets and the school gate for ways to support your activities, ideas and ambitions.  This is especially true when considering introducing technology into learning. There’s so much that needs to be found – CPD for the teaching team, infrastructure and the devices themselves can all add up to some scary looking numbers.

But first of all it isn’t just about the numbers of course it is all about the outcomes and if those are clear enough, needed enough and desired enough then finding the wherewithal to make it happen becomes a mission rather than a slog. And one that everyone who sees and shares the vision will want to help with however they can.

I know this because for the last 25 years I have worked in charities where we have survived exclusively on the voluntary support of others who provide a few pence to a few millions depending on what they have access to and the degree to which they share the vision.

The same is true of 1:1 programmes, and particularly true in the case of parents. They have a vested interest in seeing an ever better quality and range of education for their children. The more they share the vision for this the more they are prepared to commit to supporting 1:1 financially as well as philosophically.

I know this because at the Foundation we have been working with more than 40,000 parents as donors to schemes over more than 10 years. But quite rightly there are clear rules for involving parents in donating to schemes at school with the fundamental aspect of the rules being about something that, actually, we all share and particularly so at the Learning Foundation and that is………….equity.

So – what does the legalese say:

  • Under sections 451 and 454 of the Education Act 1996, schools are prohibited from charging for education and the supply of materials, books, instruments and other equipment (which includes tablet computers etc.) used during school hours.
  • There is an explicit exception in the legislation relating to schools wishing to charge for materials where a parent wants their child to own the materials such as a device in a 1:1 programme (where the device is for use in class and at home). This says that all contribution requests must make it clear that the contributions are voluntary and that, if a parent cannot or does not make a contribution, their child will not be treated any differently from those whose parents do contribute.

So every scheme involving contributions from parents has to be voluntary and equitable. And that seems absolutely right don’t you think? Our advice in this area is clear – involve parents. But not because they are potential donors but because it is the right thing to do with a programme that provides learning uplift, much of which could be found at home; involve parents because they want to support their child’s learning and technology now makes that infinitely more possible for them than ever before; involve parents because if you are committed to the scheme and engage them well they will become a legion of additional teaching assistants for you. But also don’t forget to ask them for help.

I know this because one of the lessons you learn working within a charity is that if you don’t ask you don’t get. So ask parents to help. We talk every day to parents who are helping their child’s school with their 1:1 programme and the vast majority are completely happy doing it and are doing what they can.

Finally:

  • Don’t compromise your programme before it starts
  • Don’t put yourselves at risk by breaking the rules
  • Don’t miss out on the 25% Gift Aid lifeline that donations attract
  • Talk to the Foundation about how you can make it work
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