School reward system lambasted

23:48, Jan 30 2014
Bag Tag
SPECIAL REWARD: Whangaparaoa Primary School parents receive this tag when they have paid their voluntary donations.

The handing out of tags to families who have paid school donations has enraged parents at a primary school in north Auckland.

Whangaparaoa Primary School, a decile 9 school with more than 700 students, gave out 2014 Donation Paid tags when parents made their $155 donation a child.

Many parents believed the tags were for their children's school bags.

Schools ask for donations from parents but cannot legally force them to pay.

The move has caused an uproar within the Hibiscus Coast community and received criticism on the community Facebook page.

Facebook members are horrified at potential elitism and bullying they believe could result from some children not having tags.

On a community Facebook page a post about the tags received more than 250 comments overnight.

A photo was also posted on the page by Whangaparaoa resident Daryl Gove and 300 people responded within two hours.

He removed the photo after being inundated with messages.

''People were very passionate against the tags when they saw the picture,'' Mr Gove says.

The school board of trustees chairman sent an urgent message to parents and the community.

''The tags are not being given to children, they are being given to parent's who paid their donation as a thank you to them for supporting the school,'' chairman Tristan Dean says.

''They were not printed specifically as 'bag tags' for children, although this is obviously one possible way for them to be used, it's entirely up to the parent.

''It was the board's collective decision to provide the tags and it was a decision that was made after a lot of thought and discussion.

''Mr Dean says there was never any intention to bully anyone or create different 'classes' of students based on whose parents had paid a donation.

''Although I can understand why some parents see this as a concern.

''He says the school recognises some families can't afford to pay the donation.

''It was always the intention that if any such families felt that they wanted a tag for any reason, they could confidentially contact anyone at the school and receive one, no questions asked.

It is the significant number of families that choose not to pay the donation when they can afford to that we are really trying to encourage and we've tried all sorts of softer methods historically with very limited success.''

The board is reviewing the tag idea.

The issue of school donations has been controversial throughout the country with boards of trustees trying to find ways of encouraging the donations often needed to plug gaps that Ministry of Education funding doesn't meet.

Other schools in Auckland have tried banning students from non-paying families from extra-curricular activities such as the school ball, or withholding school year books from those who hadn't paid.

''It's all well and good thinking that a donation shouldn't be required as the government should pay.

But the simple fact is that we don't get sufficient government funding to provide the level of schooling that the community expects us to provide,'' Mr Dean says.

''If more families paid their donations it would make a significant difference to the school and the opportunities we can provide the children.''