The team at Moores recently delivered a highly topical seminar on the issue of challenging school enrolments and the growing complexity between interactions with parents and students. During this seminar, our team carefully guided our clients through an engaging session with information to equip Schools to effectively deal with problem parents, tricky enrolments, discrimination and school building funds.
Many independent and Catholic schools have great stories to tell about the increasing complexities of enrolments. Not only are families becoming more complex, many parents are growing in their willingness to assert their position and challenge schools regarding enrolment decisions.
We are seeing a high level of activity from parents in the areas of waitlist jumping, illusory sibling priorities and discounts, breaches of scholarships terms and conditions, claims of discrimination, and plain old bad behaviour.
What we also see is that many schools are not equipped with robust documentation which allows them to assert their position.
Given that the VRQA has mandated the online publication of enrolment documents with effect from 1 July 2019, now is the time to review and upgrade any documents which may contain ambiguity or lack of compliance.
Our key tips are:
- Ensure your enrolment policy is clear on waitlists and sibling priorities and discounts, but ensure you retain an ultimate discretion;
- Ensure your scholarship terms and conditions are clear on:
- The expectations on the student in order to retain the scholarship; and
- If you expect parents to “re-pay” foregone fees on breach or early departure:
- Your terms clearly state this expectation; and
- You can actually support the fact that the School has foregone fees to provide the scholarship.
- Re-calibrate your enrolment documents to appear in the Enrolment Trifecta of policy, terms and conditions and parent code of conduct;
- Ensure you make the parent code of conduct enforceable and sufficiently clear on termination of enrolment (many are too vague and therefore do not assist);
- Ensure any payment plans for fees are well documented, including the implications of breaching the plan; and
- Noting schools can lawfully discriminate against current and prospective students if an exception applies, but these are very limited, consider adopting a structured framework to assess prospective students against your ethos.
Lastly, the VRQA Guidelines will require boards, management and compliance to implement new documentation by 1 July 2019. Please see our article here for more information.
School Building Funds
The ATO are reviewing school building funds, here are our top tips:
School Building Fund:-
- Can’t be used to pay for things that are not ‘fixtures’ of the building, such as furniture, computers and lab equipment.
- Can be used to pay for the administration costs of the fund, such as bank fees, accounting costs and reasonable remuneration for the fund’s administrator and staff.
- Must be registered as a charity or operated by a registered charity. Rule of thumb – if there is a separate trust deed, the fund itself needs to be registered as a charity.
- If the School requires parents to pay a compulsory levy to the fund, the parent cannot claim a tax deduction – the payment must be made voluntarily to be deductible.
- The fund must be controlled or administered by a majority of people who have a degree of responsibility to the community – eg principal, lawyer, doctor, pastor.
How we can help
If you have any questions or would like more information on navigating the new VRQA Guidelines and School Building Funds, please do not hesitate to contact us .
Feedback from the seminar
“...it was engaging and informative“- Risk and Compliance Leader, Independent School in Melbourne
“Thanks for the briefing today, it was one of the best I have attended…” – Corporate Services Manager, Independent School in Melbourne
“Your sessions are always so valuable and helpful. You are all so warm and welcoming and don’t speak ‘legal jargon’ that we can’t understand!” – Enrolments Manager, Independent faith-based School in Victoria