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FishHead Magazine shoot: Education cover issue.  Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.comClassroom. Tick. School books. Tick. Teach­ers and assist­ing staff. Tick. School trips? Maybe Equal oppor­tun­it­ies? In the pipeline.

Fun­drais­ing ini­ti­at­ives take place in schools and col­leges across New Zea­l­and and are widely accep­ted as a great way of stump­ing up addi­tion­al cash for little extras, like play­ground kit or spe­cial ini­ti­at­ives. How heav­ily do our schools rely on these funds — funds usu­ally donated by par­ents and the com­munity on top of reg­u­lar fees (for inde­pend­ents) or taxes (for state schools)?

Some schools claim that their fun­drais­ing efforts are hugely import­ant and that the school would be a dif­fer­ent place without the addi­tion­al sup­port. With many par­ent teach­er asso­ci­ations (PTAs) and school boards work­ing togeth­er, fun­drais­ing all year round to offer a more inclus­ive exper­i­ence for all chil­dren, no mat­ter their back­ground, how reli­ant are our schools on this extra cash?

School fees and fun­drais­ing have been a big top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion in New Zea­l­and for years, with fun­drais­ing efforts — namely the ‘vol­un­tary dona­tion’ or ‘par­ent­al con­tri­bu­tion’ — being budgeted for along­side reg­u­lar fees. These addi­tion­al charges usu­ally sat­is­fy some addi­tion­al basic needs for the school, along­side fund­ing from the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion and, typ­ic­ally, annu­al fun­drais­ing from par­ents and the community.

Col­our­ful money-mak­ing efforts include fun runs, fairs, quizzes and oth­er inter­act­ive events that encour­age the com­munity to get stuck in. With sev­er­al dozen schools in the great­er Wel­ling­ton region — and some par­ents hav­ing oblig­a­tions to more than one school — is fun­drais­ing really the way for­ward for cre­at­ing inclus­ive schools or are there altern­at­ive options?
Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.comJustine Fletch­er speaks pas­sion­ately about fun­drais­ing for her loc­al school, Ber­ham­pore Primary, and how their efforts reflect and embody the school’s val­ues and philo­sophy. Faced with the pro­spect of rais­ing funds for the school as part of the PTA, Justine took into con­sid­er­a­tion the sum required annu­ally (more than $20,000) and chose to cre­ate an event or oppor­tun­ity that would be a pop­u­lar day for the loc­als and engage the com­munity. “It star­ted out as a way of rais­ing funds, but it became so much more than that,” she says.

Justine’s jour­ney began in 2007 when her son Joseph, now 12, joined the decile 4 school, fol­lowed by Lucia (8), and Ambrose (6). “We dis­covered that rais­ing money was a chal­lenge, and as an inclus­ive school we want to be able to give every­one the same oppor­tun­it­ies. I felt that we needed some­thing dif­fer­ent and some­thing that could grow and devel­op.” With that atti­tude in mind, Justine and the team around her cre­ated a sea­son­al mar­ket based on unique, fresh and sus­tain­able products. Util­ising a sea­son­al approach meant that the mar­ket gathered momentum and gained a repu­ta­tion for offer­ing deli­cious food and a day out for the fam­ily. “We wanted some­thing that was more than just a mar­ket, so we cre­ated a children’s play area, we have live music, and we include both product stalls and deli­cious home-cooked cuisine.”

Stall­hold­ers are encour­aged to fea­ture ori­gin­al, recycled and sus­tain­able products, which remains true to the school’s over­all approach, and the mar­ket has hired musi­cians like Amiria Grenell and Black Spider Stomp to add to the atmosphere.

With a mix­ture of reg­u­lars and new­comers, the mar­ket has grown from an ini­tial 23 stalls to over 40 and offers a diverse mix­ture of eth­nic food. With four mar­kets a year, and Christ­mas always deliv­er­ing more than expec­ted, Justine has excit­ing plans for growth. “Christ­mas is always a really big mar­ket and we have such a great time plan­ning it, it made me real­ise there is an oppor­tun­ity to con­tin­ue with the unique approach and we are cur­rently plan­ning a retro mar­ket for the spring.”

Funds raised help real­ise the ‘teacher’s wish list’ and ensure fam­il­ies with chal­len­ging cir­cum­stances can bene­fit from the school’s inclus­ive policy, ensur­ing no child misses out on a school trip, a lunch or oth­er event. “This is a won­der­ful approach to rais­ing money,” says Justine, “and bring­ing the com­munity togeth­er. It is very reward­ing and satisfying.”

Tak­ing a slightly dif­fer­ent approach to fun­drais­ing is inde­pend­ent — and his­tor­ic —Queen Mar­garet Col­lege, which for the past ten years has been aim­ing to hit $1 mil­lion to sup­port the needs of the school. The Found­a­tion Trust com­prises dif­fer­ent groups with­in the school, includ­ing the Old Girls (alumni) and the Par­ents’ Asso­ci­ation, and was foun­ded to cre­ate a kitty that could ful­fil dif­fer­ent oblig­a­tions. The most recent invest­ment was a $7 mil­lion gym­nas­i­um, the ‘Hob­son Gym’, that also includes a com­mon room, five classrooms and a lan­guage block.

Spokes­per­son Chelsea Devlin com­ments, “The found­a­tion allows us to raise funds from char­it­able dona­tions that are filtered into school pro­jects and we hold a num­ber of events through­out the year. We had a tar­get in mind when the found­a­tion was estab­lished and we try to cre­ate dif­fer­ent events to keep it interesting.”

Some of the events have included a Trade Me auc­tion where the pub­lic could bid on cov­etable good­ies from busi­nesses like Moore Wilson’s, and a celebrity debate fea­tur­ing not­able loc­al personalities.

Chelsea adds that the col­lege doesn’t want to ask too much of a com­munity that already sup­ports it so much: “We want our fun­drais­ing events to be fun and enjoy­able; the girls already take part in so much, we aim to make our efforts as much about bring­ing the com­munity togeth­er, as it is about fundraising.”

One school mak­ing a huge mark is Thorndon. Most people in Wel­ling­ton will have heard of Thorndon Fair — it is now the biggest and most suc­cess­ful school fair in Wel­ling­ton, with more than 25,000 people des­cend­ing upon Tinakori Road on the first Sunday of every Decem­ber. The fair, estab­lished by the Thorndon Soci­ety in 1977 and handed over to Thorndon School in 1983, will cel­eb­rate its 40th birth­day in Decem­ber 2016.

A decile 10 school, Thorndon — formerly St Paul’s when first estab­lished in 1852 — cred­its the fair as the school’s biggest fun­draiser, with not only the pupils and par­ents tak­ing part, but also the wider community.
(C)Mark Tantrum, All rights reserved

Car­ol West­on, who has organ­ised the event for more than eight years, says, “Thorndon is a unique school that wel­comes chil­dren from all over Wel­ling­ton and not only with­in a short dis­tance like many oth­er schools. We are not lim­ited to pupils with­in our own sub­urb, so the com­munity spir­it lies with­in our school and not the loc­al area. Luck­ily the growth and pop­ular­ity of the mar­ket allows us to come togeth­er and cre­ate some­thing abso­lutely amazing.”

With more than 250 stalls (and still grow­ing), the suc­cess of the fair allows the school to sup­ple­ment its gov­ern­ment fund­ing and gen­er­ate $50,000 a year towards run­ning costs and upkeep. This hard-earned sum allows Thorndon to employ an addi­tion­al teach­er every year to keep classroom num­bers smal­ler and more dedicated.

The fair takes around six months to plan and a cheer­ful crowd of around 200 par­ents con­trib­ute to the smooth run­ning of the day. “We are in a very for­tu­nate pos­i­tion as we know that the pop­ular­ity of the fair enables us to grow and raise more funds,” says Car­ol. “Road clos­ures for school events are quite rare and we are thank­ful that the com­munity in Thorndon is so incred­ibly supportive.”

Although the fair is the main event, the school has a keen focus on art and has held sev­er­al exhib­i­tions and auc­tions of work cre­ated by staff.

The future of edu­ca­tion in New Zea­l­and is chan­ging and one school in Wel­ling­ton is buck­ing the trend. Kahur­angi School, formed in Septem­ber 2013 from a mer­ger between Miramar South and Strath­more Com­munity schools, offers a com­pletely dif­fer­ent approach. Kahur­angi School is free, i.e. it doesn’t ask for any ‘vol­un­tary dona­tions’. Not a bean. The approach of prin­cip­al Kyran Smith and her board is simple: a truly inclus­ive and equit­able learn­ing exper­i­ence for chil­dren, with a keen focus on par­ents becom­ing part of the school family.

Kyran explains, “I can remem­ber as a child what my fam­ily could and couldn’t afford and so many chil­dren miss out on valu­able exper­i­ences because budgets are tight. We wanted to change the focus from it being about rely­ing on par­ents for funds and instead their par­ti­cip­a­tion and involve­ment with­in the school.”

So, how do they run the school without dona­tions? Kyran explains that they take full advant­age of the oper­a­tion­al grant from the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion and budget resource­fully. The new prin­cip­al acknow­ledges that, although they have some prop­erty demands, their rel­at­ively new build­ing (cour­tesy of a $3.5 mil­lion makeover) has equipped them with a good found­a­tion on which to build their future. “We deliv­er a sol­id pro­gramme to our chil­dren and we do not assume that all chil­dren who attend the school can’t afford to pay; we have a very diverse intake. We want chil­dren to have equal access to learn­ing and oppor­tun­it­ies, and our par­ents are very proud.”

With pos­it­iv­ity gush­ing from Kahur­angi School, and com­munity fun­drais­ing else­where as act­ive as ever, the future of fund­ing, fees and dona­tions will con­tin­ue to cause debate.

Copyright Mark Tantrum


Do the maths on decile:

The decile sys­tem ranks schools from 1 to 10 based on a socio-eco­nom­ic rat­ing, and based on this sys­tem the gov­ern­ment dis­trib­utes fund­ing. Typ­ic­ally, lower-decile schools will receive increased fund­ing, and school dona­tions from par­ents also reflect this. For example, a decile 1 school may request a dona­tion of $20 per stu­dent and up to $50 per fam­ily. A mid-rank decile school may look for a vol­un­tary dona­tion of between $80 or $150. The top-tier decile schools and col­leges can sug­gest any­thing between $300 to $800. Schools that are lower and mid-rank may con­sider more extern­al fun­drais­ing to ensure every child is treated equally and not excluded based on their family’s income. A school’s decile rank­ing is not indic­at­ive of the over­all socio-eco­nom­ic mix of the school. There are five factors that make up the socio-eco­nom­ic indicator:

  • House­hold income
  • Occu­pa­tion
  • House­hold crowding
  • Edu­ca­tion­al qualifications
  • Income sup­port

Do the maths on donations:

Whatever you choose to call them — dona­tions, fees, con­tri­bu­tions — the dis­tri­bu­tion of funds and how they are used with­in schools has been a source of con­sid­er­able debate for some time. Media reports indic­ate that some schools are with­hold­ing activ­it­ies and priv­ileges for chil­dren whose par­ents have not paid their ‘vol­un­tary dona­tion’. Many par­ents claim their chil­dren have a right to free school­ing and refuse to pay.

Katie Byrne

Katie is a journalist fro the UK currently exploring Wellington after ten years working in the media in London. She is especially enjoying the craft beers, wine, fashion and arts scene in the capital but missing her beloved Chelsea FC.

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