Open main menu Close main menu

Complaint about the decision of a Board of Trustees to compulsorily charge for curriculum-related items

Ombudsmen Act 1975
Related legislation:
Education Act 1989
Legislation display text:
Ombudsmen Act 1975, ss 13, 22; Education Act 1989, s 3
Board of Trustees
Ron Paterson
Case number(s):
Issue date:


The complainant is a parent of secondary school students. In 2011, the complainant raised concerns the school was imposing compulsory charges for:

  • photocopying;

  • food items; and

  • workbooks.

The complainant drew to the school’s attention the provisions of section 3 of the Education Act 1989 which guarantees the provision of a free education, complaining that the charges contravened it. The complainant further relied on the Ministry of Education’s Education circular 1998/25: Payments by parents of students at state schools (the circular)[1] which provides guidance on the payments schools may require.

My conclusion is that, in imposing compulsory charges for workbooks and any other curriculum-related materials, the Board of Trustees:

  • has acted in a manner that appears to have been contrary to law as its actions contravene section 3 of the Education Act 1989.

  • has acted unreasonably in this matter, in that it is refusing to apply the advice of the Ministry as set out in Education circular 1998/25; and has charged the complainant for curriculum-related material that he was lawfully entitled to have provided to his children free of charge.

[1]     This was the Ministry’s relevant circular at the time of the request (2011). The Ministry has recently issued a fresh circular confirming the Ministry’s guidance re voluntary payments by parents at state schools (2013). Available at: 

Last updated: