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School to Call in Debt Collectors

10 families are facing the prospect of a visit from Bailiffs and specialist school fee debt collection agencies to recover debts relating to unpaid school dinners and school trips, as a head teacher gets tough.

Simon Emsley, head of Lakeside School, Derbyshire, is desperate to try and recoup the money and said “It is time to get tough as the cash we are having to use to plug the debt is coming out of our budget. The selfish actions of a few are spoiling things for the majority of pupils.”

Unfortunately, it would seem that parental debt is not isolated to just Lakeside School and it is though that across Derbyshire, thousands of pounds in unpaid fees is still owed, and even more has been written off when a child changes schools.

Due to the escalating amount of debt, Mr Emsley had no alternative but to cancel the annual free trip to the pantomime as, due to the costs of trying to recover the debt, he hole left in the schools budget meant the trip could not be funded.

“This will happen again this year if we can’t recover some of this money but it really isn’t fair on those people who pay regularly,” said Mr Elmsley.

Each school is responsible for recovering monies to ensure that they break even on their budget. Almost three years ago, the Derbyshire City Council recommended that head teachers should write to parents to ask for owed monies, but these requests seem to have fallen on deaf ears, with Mr Emsley saying that the letters were not working. It had even been suggested that schools should take parents to court to claim back their money.

Mr Emsley said “I don’t think the school governors and other parents would thank me for spending excessive amounts of money to recover the debt.”

Mr Emsley has now been forced to turn to the city council debt collection department for advice as he looks to find out what further action could be taken.

The problems began for Lakeside Community Primary because certain parents were sending their children to school with no food or money to pay for meals and while Mr Emsley admitted he found it difficult to allow children to go hungry, he also felt that these parents were taking advantage of his good nature. Other parents have agreed for their children to go on extra-curricular school trips but have not paid the fees.

The irony is that those families involved tend to be those who are NOT suffering with financial hardships as those families already receive free meals for their children.