Donations to Canterbury schools exceeded $13m in 2015

Christchurch Boys' High School principal Nic Hill on the school's grounds. Boys' High received $652,098 in donations in ...
Iain McGregor

Christchurch Boys' High School principal Nic Hill on the school's grounds. Boys' High received $652,098 in donations in 2015, more than any other Canterbury school.

Canterbury schools relied increasingly on parents and charitable grants to solicit more than $13 million in voluntary donations in 2015.

Accelerated giving – a $1.56m increase on 2014 compared to less than $1m growth between 2013 and 2014 – reflected schools' "constant juggling act" to balance the ever-increasing costs of education with what parents can afford.

Data from the Ministry of Education showed Canterbury's 237 schools received $13.4m, an average of $56,477 each from families, alumni, charitable trusts and other fundraising in 2015, the latest year available.

School donation figures for Canterbury in 2015.
Alistair Hughes

School donation figures for Canterbury in 2015.

Those optional donations, although only 1.8 per cent of schools' revenue in 2015, were considered crucial to providing everything from sun umbrellas to support staff.

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Principals said donations paid for resources communities took for granted: library books, school excursions, IT equipment and, increasingly, health and safety compliance costs and extra teacher aide hours.

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president Jeanette Shearer said lower decile schools may be reluctant to ask ...
Stacy Squires

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president Jeanette Shearer said lower decile schools may be reluctant to ask parents for the money they need.

Government operational funding covered the basics of education – teacher salaries, classrooms and decile-based funding – and schools were resigned to asking parents and pub charities for donations, as much as they might not want to.

"Whatever school principal you speak to, regardless of their decile, would tell you we need the extra money," Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president Jeanette Shearer said.

The "constant juggling act" of schools' budgets and their costs was a "double whammy" for low decile schools uncomfortable asking families to give more, she said.

Ilam School principal Paul Dolan said 80 per cent of its parent community donated about $140 per family but were unlikely to be able to pay more.

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"We have got the whole gamut from families from Fendalton and Merivale to struggle-street Riccarton. Some families pay $3 per week, and those families I really admire."

Other schools were putting fresh effort into grant applications. Shirley Intermediate principal Geoff Siave said they were "almost continuously" applying for targeted funding, while Bruce Kearney of Kaiapoi High said applications had taken increasing precedence in recent years.

"A lot of the schools that have Old Boys' associations have particular people that apply for those, and we're now starting to apply too.

"If you want to make something new or something better within the school then you have to look for outside help."

Continuing previous years' trends, high decile schools took a disproportionately large cut of overall donations. Decile 10 schools accounted for 18 per cent of Canterbury schools but received 26 per cent of donated money ($78,887 each on average).

Of the top 10 yielding schools in the region, all were decile 8 or higher. The top earner, Christchurch Boys' High School, received $652,098 in 2015, nearly triple that given to all Canterbury's decile 1 and 2 schools combined.

"Our community is more ambitious than the government, for the outcomes they want for their students, the opportunities and the sense of belonging they can create at Christchurch Boys' High," principal Nic Hill said.

He said roughly 60 per cent of the school's operational costs were locally raised. Donations from its Old Boys' association contributed significantly to an upgraded playing field and $3000 restoration of its WWI memorial shrine, among other projects. 

While Boys' High's voluntary school donation had remained $630 per pupil for the last three years, Christchurch Girls' High School would likely raise its to match  Boys' High this year.

Principal Pauline Duthie said the school, which received more than $430,000 in 2015, would aim higher as it eyed up a major rebuild project.

"Certainly for a school of our size, if we were a lower decile, we would be receiving $800,000, $900,000 every year, so the $430,000 is only about half of that."

SCHOOL DONATIONS HELP PAY FOR:

- Building projects
- School trips
- IT and AV equipment
- Electronic devices
- Sports, arts and music
- Libraries
- Support staff
- Cultural activities
- Medical services
- High-cost classes
- Administrative costs

 - Stuff

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