PARENTS who were encouraged to set up direct debits to donate to a state school have parted with tens of thousands of pounds.

Lord Williams’s School in Thame has thanked supporters for their generosity, since the launch of a fundraising campaign last year.

The 2,100-pupil secondary school, which is Oxfordshire's largest in terms of population, appealed for more donations in a newsletter last week.

Staff wrote in the letter: "Please continue to support the Annual Fund Appeal.

"We are getting closer to our target to raise £35,000 to implement a canteen pod at Lower School.

"We aim to implement this project in the spring/summer term, depending on the donations."

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The proposed 'pod' at the school's Lower site, where Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils learn, is partly designed to cut canteen queues.

It is one of two main projects that donations could be put towards this year, as well as a proposed £47,000 upgrade to computer facilities.

School staff and pupils helped to make a two and a half minute video for the website, explaining why the funds are needed.

In the video, the school's new headteacher Jon Ryder, who took over from David Wybron in September, said the funding situation last year had been 'pretty dire'.

He said even with a 'slight increase' in funding from September 2020, the school will still face 'significant budget difficulties'.

Mr Ryder added: "The funding from the government barely covers our basic needs. To be honest, we'll really struggle to maintain what we currently provide."

He said parents and supporters of the school have contributed 'generously' and that the school community is 'hugely grateful'.

The head added: "Everything you do and everything you donate makes a real difference."

An exact total to date was not recorded, but funds have already been enough to cover costly improvement schemes.

Parent donations have already helped to pay for a study room for sixth formers, and better music facilities at the lower school.

The sixth form upgrade was expected to cost £35,000.

Lord Williams's School, which was rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted in 2011, is not the only Oxfordshire school to have asked parents for donations in the past year.

Several others have quietly written to parents asking if they can spare any money, or even to set up regular bank payments.

However, the Thame school has been among the most proactive in asking those who can afford it to consider donating.

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It operates in an area considered to be largely affluent.

About 11 per cent of its pupils last year had been eligible for free school meals during the past six years, meaning their families were in receipt of benefits.

The average for mainstream state secondary schools in Oxfordshire was 18 per cent.

In 2018 the school's previous head, Mr Wybron, told the Oxford Mail he was 'uneasy' about asking for donations. Despite this, he said the school had to take measures to avoid 'devastating' impact.

The school's website states that even with increased government cash from September, this still represents a 'real-term' cut of seven per cent compared to 2015.

This is when other factors such as rising staff costs and inflation is taken into account.

Recently the school had to fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds to fix its central heating.

Thame Partnership Academy Trust, which runs the school, revealed in its financial accounts last year that a donation of £250,000 had helped to cover this.