A GRAMMAR school has asked parents to support an “improvement fund” to buy new equipment including trampolines and a new laser cutting machine.

Parents of Year Seven pupils at Westcliff High School for Girls have been asked to pay a voluntary monthly standing order to help the school, which says it is underfunded compared to other schools across Essex.

In the past, the improvement fund has helped provide the top floor the of the school’s East Wing, a 17-seater minibus, and the refurbishment of two ICT suites.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Dr Paul Hayman, said: “The improvement fund quite simply helps us to purchase the best possible resources for pupils and allows us to provide facilities that would not be possible if we were solely reliant on Government funding.

“The funding level we receive per pupil from the Government is significantly lower than most schools in Essex.

“Parental contributions are voluntary.”

The fund has also helped complete a new supervised study room for sixth form students, resurface netball and tennis courts, refurbish toilets, provide an outdoor picnic area, extend the sixth form common room, provide science projectors, and a new school coffee shop.

Anne Jones, Labour councillor in charge of children and learning at Southend Council, said the council was no longer responsible for direct funding for academy schools.

She added: “School funding is done through a formula.

“The Government cannot underspend on education.

“Their funding needs to keep up with changes schools are going through because of the pandemic.

“Investment will be needed in technology.”

A spokesman from the school said: “The fund tops up the amount we receive per pupil from the Government so that we can support projects across the school to enhance and enrich learning that normally fall outside the reach of the annual school budget.

“Thanks to the generosity of parents, income from the fund has helped us to finance improvements such as leasing an additional minibus for the school, refurbishing ICT suites, resurfacing the netball courts, providing a covered outdoor picnic area and refurbishing the toilets.”

The spokesman added: “Our school council is also invited to make suggestions throughout the year as to improvements that will help make a difference.”