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Parents hit out at £30 charge for swimming

DISGRUNTLED parents at St Begh’s School are being asked to splash out on £30 swimming lessons for their children which were previously free.

Letters were sent to parents saying a charge will now be made for a 10-week course for pupils. The school say this will pay for the swimming lessons and transport – which they have tried to keep as low as possible.

A Cumbria County Council spokesperson said: “Curriculum swimming should be provided free to all pupils but some schools would encourage a financial contribution from parents, which they can do if they wish.”

Following complaints to The Whitehaven News, Louise Northern, headteacher, says the issue will be looked at in the next governors meeting in May.

One unnamed parent said: “My issue is not about the money, it’s about whether it is fair for the pupils and their parents. Schools are entitled to ask for a voluntary donation. If they had done this I would be happy to pay the money. However, they are insistent about a payment.

“Are they bringing in a system of those that can, benefit, and those that can’t, suffer, as a result. The vibe on the playground is that it’s just not fair. What happens to the children whose parents don’t pay the charge? Will they be left at school while the others go swimming? Or if the school allow all children to go whatever happens as some parents will have paid the charge?”They added: “I think it’s creating peer pressure. It’s going to put a lot of pressure on parents who may not have the finances to pay for it. We know that schools are trying to manage their budgets, but asking parents to pay is just not fair.”

Previously the school have not charged for the lessons which are part of the current Primary National Curriculum. Pupils are expected to reach the target of swimming 25 metres by the time they leave Year 6.

Mrs Northern said: “Parents are quite right, contributions are voluntary.

“A decision was made to ask for a voluntary contribution of £3 per week which, at the time we felt was a reasonable charge and would mainly cover transport. This could perhaps be reflected more clearly in the letter to parents.

“Some schools make a voluntary charge for swimming, others do not. We try very hard to ensure our children have a wealth of opportunities in all sorts of different ways and in order to do this we heavily subsidise many trips and treats. It’s, I suppose ‘swings and roundabouts’ in terms of what we ‘charge’ for and what we don’t. If we asked for less or, indeed nothing for swimming we would probably have to meet those costs elsewhere and other trips would be more expensive and less heavily subsidised by school.

“In terms of ‘opting out’, this was never discussed and, as far as I am aware none of this has come to my attention. I do, however, hold a small discretionary fund for those who approach me with financial difficulties.”

Mrs Northern added: “Please be assured that I really do try very hard to keep costs reasonable. We want to be able to sustain the swimming to the end of the academic year. What I will do, in light of your concerns, is take this issue to the governing body to discuss and review in May.”

Have your say

Chante, I agree with everything you say. You seem to be looking out for other children and not just your own. Can I just say to the observer!!! - this is the only chance some children get any swimming lessons at all. There are a lot of parents out there that simply can't afford to take their children swimming due to either ill health or loss of their job and not because they can't be bothered. Times are hard at the moment for schools and parents and the letter that was sent home was just not on. I also don't like the school putting parents under pressure as we THE parents work very hard to have a good relationship with St Beghs. At the end of the day its a voluntary contribution and they shouldn't put a price. As Chante said the Headteacher is looking into this and AGREES that the letter was wrongly worded. Well done Chante and don't listen to this silly person who obviously has plenty of money and isn't bothered about the less well off children in our schools...Jill- Whitehaven

Posted by Jill - Whitehaven on 5 April 2012 at 15:44

'Un-named parent' in the original article. 'Above' refers to original article.

Posted by Observer on 2 April 2012 at 14:06

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