Extra-Curricular Activities – school subsidies
All schools across Scotland offer extra-curricular activities to some degree or other. The majority of these activities are held after school or at weekends. Consequently, the range of activities offered is mainly dependent on the willingness of staff to give up their own time to lead clubs, events or trips. Quite often, the teachers are supported by senior pupils and to a lesser extent parents and community partners.
Often extra-curricular activities are run during the school day, for example, a skiing trip to Italy; Friday afternoon rugby game in Glasgow; or a debating competition in Edinburgh. The decision to allow extra-curricular activities to run during the school day is a matter reserved for Head Teachers.
Some schools, like Oban High School, have supported the idea that facilitating a wide range of activities is good for the wider achievement of pupils; whilst bearing in mind that a balance needs sought to ensure academic attainment is not unduly hampered by pupils taking too much time off school.
Many schools do not share this philosophy and pupils are not allowed time out of school for foreign trips. These schools state that such trips must be arranged during holidays. Many schools do not allow their sports teams to take part in competitions unless the games are held after the school day.
All schools must allow out of school activities where they are directly related to the curriculum and are necessary for passing exams.
Cost is an important consideration for all extra-curricular activities. Many school clubs across Scotland charge a weekly subscription, some charge annually. These “Subs” vary in cost depending on the nature of the club and what aspirations the club has. A football team may pay £2 to help with the fortnightly travel to away games; a ski club might charge weekly “Subs” of £5 to help subsidise the annual or bi-annual ski trip abroad.
Other schools rely on the School Fund and/or Parent Council for financial support. All Scottish School must have a School Fund account that is kept separate from the money a school gets from the Local Authority. The Local Authority gives schools a budget pay for staff, electricity, educational resources, property maintenance etc. The School Fund is designed to support extra-curricular activities or other expenses not covered by a school’s main account. The School Fund is run by a committee of school staff. This committee receive bids from extra-curricular groups and the committee agree what funding (full / partial / none) that a club / activity will receive. Bids are usually for either equipment or travel subsidies to keep the pupil / parent costs down.
Our School Fund gets its money from pupil fund-raising or donations from the community. We have previously supplemented this account from advertising in Newsletters or event programmes. Most recently our Parent Council was asked to channel their fund-raising into this account. However, the School Fund cannot possibly cope with all requests to fully subsidise clubs and other extra-curricular activities because we have so many clubs and activities.
Our school’s vision and values state that:
We at Oban High School believe that the school has a responsibility to ensure that all our youngsters achieve the best possible qualifications.
We also believe that we need to nurture and develop their social, emotional and vocational knowledge and skills to enable them to achieve their full potential throughout their lives.
In order to achieve this vision we have been using some of the money that we get from the Local Authority to support extra-curricular activities, as we are aware of the limits of the School Fund and because our clubs do not have a tradition of raising “Subs”. Our global support of all our extra-curricular activities have ensured that all our pupils, if they choose to do so, can gain experiences and enjoyment in a wide range of activities. We wish this to continue.
However, with the global economic downturn, all businesses are faced by the need to tighten their belts. Schools are no different. We are in the financial position of not being able to offer all that we once could because we have less staff and less money available for all the projects we would wish to pursue. Consequently, we are not able to subsidise extra-curricular activities to the same extent as we have over the last few years. This is obviously very disappointing, especially as it comes at a time when we have more clubs and more excursions in Oban High School than at any other time in our history.
The school’s Senior Leadership Team has discussed the issue and views have been sought from the Parent Council. Thereafter, a consultative group of senior pupils, staff involved in leading activities, parents and senior management met to discuss how to deal with the issue of extra-curricular funding.
Currently, the main school account subsidises supply cover for staff; transport; excursion insurance for any activities requiring overnight stays or extended travel; and equipment. It also provides start up costs or resources too expensive for the School Fund to cope with. The School Fund helps subsidise travel and equipment. Pupils and parents are asked to pay varying amounts towards the costs involved. This may either be hundreds of pounds towards tour operator’s costs through to a minimal contribution of £5 or £10 mini-bus or coach subsidy.
As the school needs to reduce its extra-curricular subsidy costs, pupils / parents will be asked to contribute an increased amount for trips where teacher cover is required. This will roughly be an extra £5 per day per pupil – on average. An example of the impact on this will be that a foreign trip lasting 5 school days will cost an extra £25 for the week; a day away will cost an extra £5. This is an average figure.
· The school will still be significantly subsidising extra-curricular activity costs.
· The School Fund will still be subsidising extra-curricular costs.
· All curricular activities will receive full funding.
· Any pupil / parent facing financial hardship issues will receive support (managed through our Support Department).
· The school will continue to authorise term-time foreign trips.
· The school will continue to authorise school day events / trips.
Additionally, the consultative group have made the following recommendations:
· The Senior Pupil Leadership Team’s fund-raising group should re-balance their fund-raising to ensure that they raise money for the School Fund, as well as the pupils’ nominated charities.
· The Parent Council should try to re-energise its efforts in fund-raising to the benefit of the School Fund.
· The Parent Council should consider applications for Hardship cases.
· Clubs should consider charging smaller cost subscriptions each week rather than asking for larger amounts at the time of a trip.