OPINION: Hot Issue - Should charities be worried by state schools fundraising?

A state secondary school in Essex has become one of the first in the country to set up a professional fundraising charity to pay for a £4 million redevelopment project. This puts the school in competition with local charities. As local authorities tighten budgets, school charities could become a national trend.

Sean Kelly, chief executive, The Elfrida Society - YES

In my view, state-funded schools should be fully state- funded. They should not have to compete with charities for other sources of funding.

I understand that in this case the governors of the school are seeking a major extension to the premises - but I think the principle still holds.

Charities and voluntary groups are in great need of independent funding so they can retain their independent voice and avoid relying on central or local government contracts.

At their worst, such contracts have sought to make the charity, in effect, simply another department of the local authority. If charities were to lose the freedom to speak and act independently, we would all lose a vital force in our community and social life. It may be that this development does not, at this stage, pose a great threat to funding for charities, but it is right to be concerned about the future of funding for the sector.

Russell Moon, headmaster, Philip Morant School - YES

Until the late 1980s, funding for state schools came almost entirely from local authorities and the boundaries between public and private activities were rarely breached. However, over the past few years there has been a huge culture change. There is little or no money available for capital or development projects, so increasingly the state school sector is looking towards private funding initiatives to bring them into line with 21st century needs.

If state schools are to address the huge shortfalls that they are experiencing, they will have to look for alternative sources of funding. Many schools have little choice but to appoint professional fundraisers.

Therefore schools, just like other charitable organisations, will be competing for donations, grant-making and sponsorships and exploring all other funding avenues available to them.

And yes, they will have every intention of securing a competitive advantage.

John Crossman, acting director, Education Extra - NO

The rounded education of young people demands more resources than are available through statutory means. Many state schools, often assisted by Education Extra, have been able to resource activities such as breakfast clubs, maths clubs, family literacy, and parental learning. These make a huge difference to the motivation and achievement of young people and there is a long tradition of support from charities, trusts and companies.

Schools, like voluntary organisations, are becoming more ambitious and proficient in accessing funds. Long may this continue, as it provides them with the ability to respond to local needs free from the constraints of statutory funding. There is rich potential for new learning and partnerships to bring schools and communities together, making more effective use of local resources.

If voluntary sector expertise can be allied to the local knowledge and resources in schools and communities, this will make a real difference to people's lives, especially in our most challenged communities.

Heather Brandon, chief executive, Volunteer Reading Help - NO

Competition is healthy and ensures that we stay sharply focused on our activities. So if by registering as a charity state schools are able to provide more effective cross-departmental services and support to vulnerable families and children in need, then charities should certainly be supportive.

For years independent schools have employed professional fundraisers to develop and support major capital appeals.

Rather than setting themselves up in direct competition, schools should work with local charities and local authorities which are already delivering significant services to families and children.

For the past 30 years, Volunteer Reading Help has recruited, trained and provided ongoing support and supervision to reading helpers. It would be good to think that in future, schools would work in partnership with us to raise sufficient funds to provide a trained volunteer for every child in need.

But I rather fear that for most schools, professional fundraising efforts will be directed towards achieving what should be a state-provided function - the development and maintenance of school buildings.

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