School fee exemptions: a step-by-step guide

It is that time of year where schools are inundated with school fee exemption applications. To assist fee-paying public schools and parents alike, TPN has set out an easy, step-by-step guide to school fee exemptions, to ensure that everyone is compliant!

Step 1:

Approach your school’s administrative office to collect the necessary forms to be completed. If you have any questions regarding school fee exemptions, the principal, bursar, or other appointed staff members should assist you.

Top tips for the school:

  1. The principal must notify a parent of the annual school fees to be paid and the procedures to be followed when applying for an exemption.
  2. The principal must notify a parent that they are liable for the payment of school fees unless the parent has been exempted from payment.
  3. Annexure A of the Exemption Regulations must be completed and signed by the parent and principal. This form explains that the school has made the parent aware of point 1 and 2.
  4. If a parent is in arrears by one month or more, the School Governing Body (“SGB”) should investigate whether the parent qualifies for exemption before attempting to collect school fees.

Top tips for the parent:

It is important to remember that this is an annual application. An exemption does not carry over to the next school year.

Step 2:

The parent must complete the application carefully and honestly. Ensure that you attach all the required documentation. The documentation usually requested are a parent’s ID, bank statements, payslips, stamped court orders (if applicable) and a signed and commissioned affidavit. The forms must be submitted back to the school for consideration.

Top tips for the parent:

If parents have separated and are no longer in contact, and one parent is willing to provide the requisite financial information to process the exemption while the other is not, The Supreme Court of Appeal has held that the best way to deal with this is to use the conditional exemption provisions of the Exemption Regulations. All 5 must be met in this scenario:

  1. Two living parents of a learner at a fee-paying school;
  2. One applies for an exemption;
  3. The applying parent gives the particulars of their annual gross income;
  4. There are no particulars of the other parent’s income because the other parent has refused or failed to provide the particulars to the parent applying or the school; and
  5. Having regard to the applying parent’s income alone, they would qualify for a full or partial exemption.

Top tips for the school:

It is important to note that the school can still pursue the outstanding amount from the parent who refused or is no longer in contact on the basis that parents are joint and severally liable for school fees. TPN’s trace option can assist the school in locating parent B to pursue the outstanding amount or to confirm that parent B is no longer in contact with the applying parent A.

Step 3:

The SGB must assess the application and accordingly verify the information provided. The SGB will calculate the exemption based on the formula set out in the Exemption Regulations. A decision must be made within 30 days of receiving the application and inform the applying parent of the outcome within 7 days of assessing the application.

Top tips for the school:

  • The information provided by a parent is confidential, ensure that you get a parent’s written consent if you are required to share this information to a third party.
  • If a parent has more than one child at the same school and the school fees are not the same for all of them, the highest school fees must be used in the formula.
  • If the SGB wants to verify information, TPN recommends conducting a TPN SmartCheck©, an Employment Enquiry, an ID Verification, an Account Verification Enquiry, a Verified Online Bank Statements (VOBS) Enquiry and a Trace Enquiry all of which can be done through TPN.

Step 4:  

If a parent is not happy with the outcome, the parent may appeal through the Head of Department (“HOD”) against the decision within 30 days of receiving the decision. The HOD will request the relevant information from the SGB Chairperson within 14 days. It is important to note, that the SGB cannot pursue outstanding school fees until the appeal is heard. The HOD must, within 7 days, notify the parent and the school in writing of the outcome of the appeal and the reasons for their decision.

Reach out:

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about TPN for Schools, you can give TPN a call on 0861 876 000 or email helpdesk@tpn.co.za.

By Ashleigh Laurent, TPN Legal Counsel

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