Parent Councils - accounts and fundraising
Parent Councils have a responsibility to keep track of their accounts and present these at the Annual General Meeting. Having a treasurer’s report at each Parent Council meeting showing a summary of income and expenditure is good practice.
It is useful to set out an approach to finance in the constitution, eg can your Parent Council apply for and receive grants, how will your Parent Council handle counting and banking cash from fundraising activities. Parent Councils can (but do not have to) take part in fundraising activities for the school community.
Do the accounts of Parent Councils need to be audited by an accountant?
The accounts of a Parent Council should be independently checked and a signed copy presented to the Annual General Meeting by the treasurer. This can be done by a suitably skilled parent or a community volunteer who is not on the Parent Council and is not related to anyone on the Parent Council.
Can Parent Councils obtain charitable status?
A Parent Council can apply for charitable status if, on the evidence of its constitution and activities, it passes the ‘charity test’ and its constitution does not otherwise disqualify it from being considered a charity.
What is the ‘charity test’?
The ‘charity test’ requires that an organisation’s purposes is one or more of the charitable purposes under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. Charitable purposes under the Act include the ‘advancement of education’. The organisation must also provide public benefit in Scotland or elsewhere.
Does the Parental Involvement Act ‘toolkit constitution’ meet the test for charitable status?
Advice from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) suggests that a Parent Council, applying on the basis of the ‘toolkit constitution’, would be likely to pass the relevant elements of the charity test in respect of charitable purposes. However, OSCR would take a decision based on what individual constitutions say. It might want to discuss certain aspects of your constitution, such as the disposal of funds if the Parent Council winds up. A Parent Council also needs to provide evidence that it will provide public benefit.
A Parent Council wishing to apply for charitable status can do so through the OSCR website.
What should a Parent Council think about if considering charitable status?
It is for Parent Councils to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of charitable status. They might wish to consider what sort of financial advantage charitable status would bring eg Gift Aid. Charitable status imposes certain requirements. These include how your accounts are drawn up, how you report to others, the role of Parent Council officers (who would now be trustees) and the need to publicise that the organisation is a charity. Accounts must be kept and copies sent to the OSCR each year with an annual return. Charitable status may also bring with it a requirement for office bearers of the Parent Council to be Disclosure Scotland-checked.
The OSCR website gives advice on what your Parent Council needs to consider.
Funding and insurance
Do members of the Parent Council need to take out personal liability insurance?
No. Members of the Parent Council do not need to take out personal liability insurance cover. The Parental Involvement Act states that members of Parent Councils do not incur personal liability for anything done, or said to have been done, in carrying out the work of the Parent Council, if this was done in good faith.
Do Parent Councils need to take out public liability insurance?
Parent Councils should consider the need for appropriate insurance for the activities they undertake and for any liability issues that might arise. Parent Councils will wish to establish whether they are covered by the authority's own insurance arrangements for public liability. Otherwise, the Parent Council should secure its own public liability insurance. Twenty-four local authorities take out membership for all their Parent Councils with Connect. This membership includes membership-linked insurance. Otherwise, Parent Councils can take out individual Connect membership or may source a policy from a recognised broker.
If your Parent Council is involved in fundraising activities, do discuss matters with the headteacher and with the wider school community. Then you can work together effectively on how best to spend the money to improve the school and benefit the pupils. Funds raised should not be used for school running costs or essential equipment. You should also be aware that most local authorities have contract arrangements for the supply of equipment such as computer resources so there may be restrictions on what your parent group can buy for the school.
Can a Parent Council seek funds from grants and trusts?
The Parental Involvement Act allows a Parent Council to raise funds by any means other than by borrowing. It can also receive gifts. However, a Parent Council wishing to seek funding from grants and trusts, or lottery funding, might find it helpful to have a specific reference in its constitution saying that it can apply for, and receive, grants and gifts. Often grants have specific eligibility criteria. If, for example, ‘statutory organisations’ are not eligible, then Parent Councils would not be eligible as they are a statutory body.
Parent Council Resource - A guide to gathering views and ensuring parents' voices are heard in your school.
National Lottery Good Causes - Information on organisations that distribute public money from the government and the National Lottery.