The law is quite clear that schools cannot charge for education provided during school hours including the supply of any materials, books, instruments or other equipment, visits and experiences. Parents may be asked for a voluntary contribution for these items or events as long as it is made clear that students will not be excluded if parents do not pay. There are some circumstances where contributions may be requested for some activities that are known as ‘optional extras’.
DfE guidance, suggests that it is appropriate to include all charges when calculating costs but schools must never make a profit.
Charging parents extra who pay by credit or debit cards
Groupcall’s PayOurSchool payment service was created to recognise that it costs both time and funding to collecting money. It doesn’t matter whether you enable online payments or take cash and cheques to the bank, there is a demand on precious school resources.
1.5% of the payment is generally regarded as the lowest figure which takes into account all the processes needed to get a payment from a Payer into the Payee bank account. Cash, in particular, is known to be considerably higher than this.
In order to help schools to manage the cost of taking money, calculating costs accurately and to ensure vital funding is not taken from teaching and learning, the PayOurSchool system allows schools to choose as an option to pass on a small charge to parents.
The law is forcing us to change
As of January 2018, it will be illegal to make a surcharge for credit or debit card payments. The changes come as part of EU Payment Services Directive II, which is written into UK law by the Payment Services Regulations 2017 which come into force on 13 January 2018.
It could be argued that parents are making a voluntary contribution but some parents will definitely view the extra cost as a surcharge. Thus Groupcall has no option but to remove the surcharge option (where a school may pass the Groupcall charges onto parents) within PayOurSchool.
Remember though, that PayOurSchool is just like any other service a school uses, akin to paying for the school minibus, hiring facilities or contracting catering companies – and the cost of an activity or other event can be calculated with this in mind.