Does a payment scheme minimise the financial risk?
From a purely educational perspective, if you are looking to introduce a 1:1 programme where every child has a device to use in school and at home then the programme will only work if EVERY child has that device. Most schools will inevitably have some children who’s parents or guardians are not financially able to contribute and therefore you will obviously have to find ways of helping them so that they have an equal opportunity to participate…
…why would you want to do anything else?
That said we are very aware of the huge financial investment that needs to be made to make a 1:1 programme possible and the soul searching that Governors and Financial Managers go through in order to allow the programme to go ahead.
We know that some schools are tempted to attempt to set up a 1:1 programme by asking parents to purchase the devices rather than asking them to donate to the programme. Although this may, on the surface, look like a way of reducing your exposure, in most cases it will have no effect on risk and at the same time deprive your programme of a substantial amount of additional income.
Before you jump in at the deep end we thought it was important that you understand all the factors involved.
Consumer Credit Act
Unless a school has a Consumer Credit Licence from the Office of Fair Trading (with the required permissions) you CANNOT offer or promote a programme which can be construed as a ‘Regulated Finance Agreement’ to parents. This effectively means that the ‘payments’ or contributions are not enforceable. As a result, even if you go down the route of presenting your programme as requiring fixed payments to purchase the device, without the licence you will have no power to enforce payment.
Education Act 1996
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.
Additionally there is a specific exception in the legislation which relates to schools wishing to charge for materials where the pupil’s parent wishes them to own the materials, and this would directly relate to a 1:1 programme where the device is for use in class and at home. This specifies that all contribution requests made to parents must make it clear that the contributions are voluntary and that, if a parent cannot make (or refuses to make) a contribution, their children will not be treated any differently and will not be excluded from taking part in any activity or related equipment.
Clearly this will mean that a payment scheme has no impact on the potential risk to the funding of the programme.
By opting for payments rather than a voluntary donation you also exclude the opportunity of adding an additional 25% Gift Aid to the programme. This can help to significantly offset the financial risk as well as the costs of administration.
If after checking your school’s position you feel that you comply with the requirements and are happy to sacrifice the benefit of Gift Aid then the Learning Foundation is able to collect your parental contibutions on your behalf. Please ask us for more information.