Be warned, I am going to have myself a little rant.
My son aged 10 came home the other day telling us that he "needed" seventy pounds and preferably more. His understanding was that he could only take part in some football coaching at school if he came up with the money.
Further investigation showed that he could take part in any event. However, there would be a "Sponsored Penalty Prize" with the financial take being split between the school and the charitable arm of the football club delivering the training.
A letter in his book bag told me that unless the child raised £2 he would be left out of the certificats of participation. To get goodies, the child would have to get far more sponsorship which is is why my son was quoting seventy pounds at us.
I have no problem in putting my hand in my pocket for extra-curricular activities and trips. However, I think this initiative is different and it makes me angry.
My son does not have a huge network of family and friends. We have only recently moved here and my husband's family members do not even acknowledge that my children exist for reasons only known to themselves. That is not my son's fault. My son also has a well-off uncle on my side who does not even bother to send him a birthday card. That also is not my son's fault. Why should he be made to feel a failure?
This scheme seems to put a child's value not on their effort and talent but on how much hard cash they can cough up. I think that sends out a terrible message. I try to teach my children that individuals matter and all have their own story to tell. How does this initiative fit with that when it is clearly setting one child against another.
Years ago, I used to support people in financial difficulties professionally. The NSPCC once published a report about the link between financial difficulties and child abuse. In a time of recession, surely schools should not be piling pressure on already cash-strapped families?
Of course, because my son was upset about not having the high level of sponsorship, I did almost give him the money. When I finally decided that I could not do so and face him a a principled mother, other family members offered the money. However, I thought long and hard and then turned down their generous gesture.
It is not that we cannot come up with the money. It is that I think we should not do so. I expect some criticism for my decision but sometimes I think you have to stick to the principles you hold dear. I am hoping that in the long-term my son will benefit and stick to his principles too.