The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has reiterated that state schools may not charge parents a deposit to secure a child’s placement.
The WCED will send a circular to all Western Cape schools reminding them of this, said department spokesman Paddy Attwell.
The move follows reports in the Cape Argus in June which showed that some schools were requiring cash deposits from parents, sometimes non-refundable, to secure a child’s place for the 2012 school year.
The department has said that schools may not charge a fee or a deposit to secure any child a place in a state school.
Asked what the department was doing to inform schools that they were not allowed to charge the deposits, Attwell said it had issued its admissions policy to schools last year, then reminded them of the details in April.
“Head office and district officials will discuss the issue further next week,” he said, adding that a circular would also be sent to schools this week.
A parent who recently received a letter of acceptance from Rondebosch East Primary School said the school had asked for a deposit of R650 to confirm the child’s placement.
If the money was not paid by June 24, the child was to have been placed on a waiting list.
The letter stated that any cancellation of the child’s placement “after classes have been finalised for 2012” would result in the parent forfeiting the deposit.
The parent said that when she pointed out to the school that the law prohibited payment of such deposits, she was told that the money would go towards the 2012 fees.
She said the provincial education department had to play a more proactive role in ensuring that schools were not overstepping the line.
Matthew Lambert, principal of Rondebosch East Primary, said the money was really a commitment from the parent that they were going to send the child to the school.
It helped the school to do its planning, including class sizes, for the new school year.
He said it happened, for example, that 100 pupils were placed for a specific grade, but that some parents then decided to send their child to another school, without informing the first school.
A situation could arise where only three-quarters of the children showed up on the first day of school, which would affect staff numbers and other areas.
Lambert confirmed that the money would go towards the 2012 school fees. If parents informed the school that they had chosen a different school for their child, the money would be refunded.
Attwell said schools could ask for a down payment on school fees after they had confirmed in writing that they had accepted a pupil, but that this could not be a condition for registration. Some schools asked for a voluntary down payment as a way of confirming that parents had accepted the offer of a place for their children.
Parents had to advise the school whether they had accepted the placement. “The department needs to know what places are available to help other parents find places for their children. We appeal to parents to assist us by ensuring that they reply in good time so that we can ensure that all children have places.”