To ensure that parent payment practices are consistent, transparent and ensure that all children have access to the standard curriculum.
The Victorian community shares a vision to build an education system that champions excellence and ensures that every child and young person has access to the opportunities to succeed in life, regardless of their background or circumstances.
Schools are best placed to make local decisions which ensure that all students can access a broad range of learning opportunities that support their expectations and promote their aspirations as they move through the education system. Parent contribution, in all forms, assists schools to provide an enriched learning and teaching program for every student and is highly valued by school communities.
Learning and teaching programs vary across schools based on local needs and circumstances and reflect each school’s priorities, decisions and resources. This, in turn, informs the parent payment charges approved by school councils that may vary from one school to the next.
What can schools charge for?
The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 provides for instruction in the standard curriculum program to be free to all students in government schools. School councils are responsible for developing and approving school-level parent payment charges and can request payments from parents under three categories only- Essential Student Learning Items, Optional Items and Voluntary Financial Contributions.
Essential Student Learning Items are those items, activities or services that are essential to support student learning of the standard curriculum. These are items that the school considers essential for all students and which students take possession of. Parents may choose to provide the items themselves or buy the items from the school where practical and appropriate.
Optional Items are those items, activities or services that are offered in addition to or support instruction in the standard curriculum program. These are provided on a user-pays basis so that if parents choose to access them for students, they are required to pay for them.
Voluntary Financial Contributions
Parents can be invited to make a donation to the school for a general or specific purpose, e.g. school grounds projects, library fund or for new equipment. Only some Voluntary Financial Contributions are tax-deductible.
The attached diagram “Understanding Parent Payment Categories” provides examples of items and materials under each category.
In implementing this policy, schools must adhere to the following principles:
- Educational value: Student learning, aspirations and wellbeing are paramount when schools determine their parent payments practices
- Access, equity and inclusion: All students have access to the standard curriculum program and participation of all students to the full school program is facilitated
- Affordability: Cost to parents is kept to a minimum and is affordable for most families at the school
- Engagement and Support: Early identification and engagement strategies by the school ensure parents are well informed of the payment options and supports available for those experiencing hardship
- Respect and Confidentiality: Parents and students experiencing hardship are treated with respect, dignity, sensitivity and without judgement and the identity and personal information of all parents and students are kept confidential in respect to parent payments
- Transparency and Accountability: School parent payment practices are well communicated, clear and transparent and their impact on student programs and families are reviewed by school councils
Cost and support to parents
When school councils consider the proposed requests for parent payments the cost is kept to a minimum and is affordable to most parents at the school.
School principals must ensure that:
- items students consume or take possession of are accurately costed
- payment requests are broadly itemised within the appropriate category
- parents are advised that they have the option of purchasing equivalent Essential Student Learning Items themselves, in consultation with the school
- information on payment options is available, accessible and easily understood to all parents so that they know what to expect and what supports they can access
- parents are provided with early notice of annual payment requests for school fees (i.e. a minimum of six weeks’ notice prior to the end of the previous school year). This enables parents to save and budget accordingly.
- parents are provided with reasonable notice of any other payment requests that arise during the school year- ensuring parents have a clear understanding of the full financial contribution being sought
- the status and details of any financial arrangements are kept confidential and only shared with relevant school personnel
- parents experiencing hardship are not pursued for outstanding school fees from one year to the next
- use of debt collectors to obtain outstanding school funds owed to the school from parents is not permitted
- there will be only one reminder notice to parents for voluntary financial contributions per year
- Invoices/statements for unpaid essential or optional items accepted by parents are not generated more than monthly or according to the parent payment arrangement with the school.
Support for families
Families may experience financial difficulties and may be unable to meet the full or part payments requested. Principals and school councils exercise sensitivity to the differing financial circumstances of students and their families when considering parent payment fees. There are a range of support options available to support and assist parents. These can be accessed through “Cost support for families.”
Consideration to hardship arrangements in respect to payment requests is provided to families experiencing long term hardship or short term crisis on a confidential, case by case basis. All schools have written hardship arrangements that include a proactive approach to providing support for parents experiencing financial difficulty.
All parents are provided the name and contact details of a nominated parent payment contact person at the school who they can discuss payment arrangements with.
Engaging with parents
In respect to each school’s development of its parent payments, school councils will engage in effective communication with the school community and have strategies in place to ensure they are aware of and understand the needs and views of parents.
Review of policy implementation
Schools will monitor the effectiveness and impact of the implementation of this policy at least annually as part of its ongoing improvement and report back to the school community.
The full Parent Payment Policy is available from the Department’s School Policy and Advisory Guide.
Answers to the most commonly asked questions about school costs for parents see:
Frequently Asked Questions – For Parents
Parent Payment Charges
Castlemaine Secondary College School Council will annually review parent payments requested to ensure they are in line with Department of Education & Training guidelines. Charges will be clearly itemised, costed and categorised as Essential Education Items, Optional Items or Voluntary Contributions.
Parent contribution requests will be made in line with the principles of educational value, access, equity and inclusion, affordability, engagement and support, respect and confidentiality, transparency and accountability.
Parent contributions will be requested to assist the college in providing an enhanced teaching and learning program for every student, in line with the school’s priorities.
Payment arrangements and methods
Parents will be provided with early notification of annual payment requests (a minimum of 6 weeks prior to the end of the previous school year). Reasonable notice will be given for any other payment requests during the year (i.e. excursions, camps).
Parents are permitted to make payments in installments and be provided with several methods of payment, such as BPAY, Eftpos, direct deposit, Centrepay, credit card, cash or cheque. Parents are able to enter into confidential payment plan arrangements by contacting Karen Burton, the school’s Family Finance Manager on 5479 1111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note the payment for Optional Items including camps and excursions must be paid by the specified due date prior to departure and music tuition by week 2 of each term.
Receipts are issued to parents upon payment at CSC Reception.
Family support options
Parents who have difficulty paying for essential items may have access to a range of support options including:
- Camps, Sports & Excursion Funding (CSEF) available to eligible parents/carers
- State Schools Relief for school uniforms and shoes – apply through CSC
- CentreLink Youth Allowance – apply directly to Centrelink
- Welfare and support agencies that provide further assistance to students and their families e.g. St Lukes, Education Foundation Scholarships, Department of Human Services, and the Salvation Army, Castlemaine District Health Service (formerly known as CHIRP) – apply directly
- Alternative purchase of quality second-hand books and calculators on designated selling days.
- The school also seeks suppliers of educational items who provide not only competitive prices, but also quality of product and service.
Consideration of hardship
The school understands that families may experience financial difficulties or hardship at times and may be unable to meet full or part payments requested. Families are invited to contact the Family Finance Manager to enter into a confidential payment plan.
This policy ensures that:
- Students are not treated differently, denied access to the standard curriculum program, or refused instruction on the basis of payments not being made for education items, services or voluntary financial contributions.
- Administrative and financial processes are compliant with Departmental requirements such as CASES21 financial reporting.
Communication with families
The Parent Payment Policy will be published on the school’s website, and will also be distributed to families each year along with the annual payment request.
General enquiries regarding parent charges may be made to the school on 5479 1111. Issues or concerns can be forwarded to the Business Manager, Elissa O’Connor via phone or email email@example.com.
Monitoring and review of the implementation of the policy
The School Council (via the Finance Sub-Committee) will conduct an annual review of the implementation of the Parent Payment Policy, including addressing any concerns raised by the school community. Any changes to the Policy implementation will be reported back to the school community via the newsletter and/or direct written correspondence.
 Parent’ in the policy has the same meaning as in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, which is: ’parent’, in relation to a child, includes a guardian and every person who has parental responsibility for the child including parental responsibility under the Family Law Act 1975 of the Commonwealth and any person with whom a child normally or regularly resides.