Parent Payments Policy and Implemenation
To ensure that parent payment practices are consistent, transparent and ensure that all children have access to the standard curriculum.
The Victorian community shares a vision to build an education system that champions excellence and ensures that every child and young person has access to the opportunities to succeed in life, regardless of their background or circumstances. Schools are best placed to make local decisions which ensure that all students can access a broad range of learning opportunities that support their expectations and promote their aspirations as they move through the education system. Parent contribution, in all forms, assists schools to provide an enriched learning and teaching program for every student and is highly valued by school communities. Learning and teaching programs vary across schools based on local needs and circumstances and reflect each school’s priorities, decisions and resources. This, in turn, informs the parent payment charges approved by school councils that may vary from one school to the next.
What can schools charge for?
The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 provides for instruction in the standard curriculum program to be free to all students in government schools. School councils are responsible for developing and approving school-level parent payment charges and can request payments from parents ( see footnote) under three categories only- Essential Student Learning Items, Optional Items and Voluntary Financial Contributions.
ESSENTIAL STUDENT LEARNING ITEMS
These are items, activities or services that are essential to support student learning of the standard curriculum. These are items that the school considers essential for all students and which students take possession of. Parents may choose to provide the items themselves or buy the items from the school where practical and appropriate.
These are items, activities or services that are offered in addition to, or support instruction in, the standard curriculum program. These are provided on a user-pays basis so that if parents choose to access them for students, they are required to pay for them.
VOLUNTARY FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS
Parents can be invited to make a donation to the school for a general or specific purpose, e.g. school grounds projects, library fund or for new equipment.
In implementing this policy, schools must adhere to the following principles:
- Educational value: Student learning, aspirations and wellbeing are paramount when schools determine their parent payments practices
- Access, equity and inclusion: All students have access to the standard curriculum program and participation of all students to the full school program is facilitated
- Affordability: Cost to parents is kept to a minimum and is affordable for most families at the school
- Engagement and Support: Early identification and engagement strategies by the school ensure parents are well informed of the payment options and supports available for those experiencing hardship
- Respect and Confidentiality: Parents and students experiencing hardship are treated with respect, dignity, sensitivity and without judgement and the identity and personal information of all parents and students are kept confidential in respect to parent payments
- Transparency and Accountability: School parent payment practices are well communicated, clear and transparent and their impact on student programs and families are reviewed by school councils
Cost and support to parents
When school councils consider the proposed requests for parent payments the cost is kept to a minimum and is affordable to most parents at the school.
School principals must ensure that:
- items students consume or take possession of are accurately costed
- payment requests are broadly itemised within the appropriate category
- parents are advised that they have the option of purchasing equivalent Essential Student Learning Items themselves, in consultation with the school
- information on payment options is available, accessible and easily understood to all parents so that they know what to expect and what supports they can access
- parents are provided with early notice of annual payment requests for school fees (i.e. a minimum of six weeks’ notice prior to the end of the previous school year). This enables parents to save and budget accordingly.
- parents are provided with reasonable notice of any other payment requests that arise during the school year- ensuring parents have a clear understanding of the full financial contribution being sought
- the status and details of any financial arrangements are kept confidential and only shared with relevant school personnel
- parents experiencing hardship are not pursued for outstanding school fees from one year to the next
- use of debt collectors to obtain outstanding school funds owed to the school from parents is not permitted
- there will be only one reminder notice to parents for voluntary financial contributions per year
- Invoices/statements for unpaid essential or optional items accepted by parents are not generated more than monthly or according to the parent payment arrangement with the school.
Support for families
Families may experience financial difficulties and may be unable to meet the full or part payments requested. Principals and school councils exercise sensitivity to the differing financial circumstances of students and their families when considering parent payment fees. There are a range of support options available to support and assist parents. These can be accessed through the ‘Financial Support Programs’ attachment to this policy.
Consideration to hardship arrangements in respect to payment requests is provided to families experiencing long term hardship or short term crisis on a confidential, case by case basis. All schools have written hardship arrangements that include a proactive approach to providing support for parents experiencing financial difficulty. See the school’s Hardship Policy.
All parents are provided the name and contact details of a nominated parent payment contact person at the school who they can discuss payment arrangements with.
Engaging with parents
In respect to each school’s development of its parent payments, school councils will engage in effective communication with the school community and have strategies in place to ensure they are aware of and understand the needs and views of parents.
Review of policy implementation
Schools will monitor the effectiveness and impact of the implementation of this policy at least annually as part of its ongoing improvement and report back to the school community.
The full Parent Payment Policy is available from the Department’s Policy and Advisory Library.
This policy was last ratified by School Council on: 07/10/20
PARENT PAYMENTS POLICY
ONE PAGE OVERVIEW
The following is a summary of the main principles of the Parent Payments Policy:
PARENT PAYMENT REQUESTS
FINANCIAL HELP FOR FAMILIES
 Parent’ in the policy has the same meaning as in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, which is: ’parent’, in relation to a child, includes a guardian and every person who has parental responsibility for the child including parental responsibility under the Family Law Act 1975 of the Commonwealth and any person with whom a child normally or regularly resides.
Resource: Financial Support Programs
Schools should refer families experiencing Financial Hardship to available government or community support programs, as per the Financial Help for Families Policy. Schools can develop partnerships with local services and welfare groups which can provide specialist support and assistance to students and families in financial crisis.
State Government Assistance Programs
- The Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund applications are submitted by schools. The program provides capped payments for eligible students to attend camps, sports and excursions.
- State Schools’ Relief applications are submitted by schools. The program covers costs such as new school uniforms, shoes, books and more for disadvantaged students.
- Student Scholarships. The Department of Education and Training manages over 25 Student Scholarships programs, that are awarded for a range of reasons including academic achievement, participation in the school and local community or financial need.
Commonwealth Family Assistance
The Commonwealth Government provides a range of payments and services to help families look after their children’s health, education and other family issues.
Centrelink’s Parent Payment Finder takes families through what payments and service they can be eligible for:
- Child Care Benefit helps eligible families with the cost of outside school hours care, vacation care and registered care.
- Family Tax Benefits, A or B, or Parenting Payments.
- Youth Allowance, Newstart Allowance or ABSTUDY for young people between 15 and 24 years of age. These payments provide financial support while young people are looking for work, studying, training or undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship.
- Health Care Card provides help with the with the cost of prescription medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Commonwealth-funded medical services, and access to state, territory and local government concessions.
- A Start in Life is an Australian charity that provides a range of assistance, including financial assistance, to disadvantaged students from kindergarten through to tertiary studies.
- Good Shepherd Microfinance provides affordable financial programs, including the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), for people on low or limited incomes that may assist families to afford educational costs and other expenses.
- Saver Plus is an initiative of Brotherhood of St Laurence and ANZ that assists families on lower incomes. The program matches family savings up to $500 for education-related costs.
- St Vincent de Paul offers a range of assistance including food or food vouchers, clothing, furniture, budget support, back to school costs, information and advocacy.
- The Smith Family’s ‘Learning for Life’ program provides financial support, guidance and mentoring for disadvantaged students. The Smith Family works with a select number of schools and may require referral from the school principal.
- Travellers Aid Australia’s Pathways to Education program provides student travel passes to eligible secondary school students experiencing financial difficulties, enabling them to travel to school or other forms of training and education.
The following websites provides Victorian community services information:
- The Ardoch School Costs Guide lists support options that provide financial assistance to families and reduce school costs.
- Crisis Referral Information System (CRIS) Online Directory provides information for people seeking welfare assistance, advice and general referral and support. The online directory contains comprehensive information on services and organisations such as those providing support in respect to accommodation, domestic violence, drug & alcohol treatment, health, material aid and mental health.
- Community Information and Support Victoria (CISVic) is a peak body representing local community information and support services that assist people experiencing personal and financial difficulties.
- Infoxchange Service Seeker is a search site for community support services.