by Steve Peacock
King Edward VI Community College has warned that it will be forced to take ‘drastic measures’ in the face of massive funding pressures and cuts that will see the college become almost £360,000 worse off during the next two years.
The measures could include cuts to staffing, more work for those teachers who remain, less support for students and a slimmed-down curriculum, parents have been told.
Schools across Devon were pinning their hopes on a shake-up in the national education funding formula that should have given underfunded schools in the county a better deal.
But while Kevicc will be slightly better off under the new formula, that extra cash will be swallowed up by the £328,683 it will lose by 2019 in the face of escalating costs – the equivalent of £355 per pupil, or the loss of nine teachers.
On top of that, Devon County Council has just announced its own £2m round of cuts to education cash across the county, which it is claimed will mean the loss of an average of £33 per Devon pupil next year and a further cut of £29,370 at Kevicc.
This week Kevicc head Alan Salt and school governors sent a letter to every parent warning of the financial situation. Mr Salt also appealed for them to bombard
MP Sarah Wollaston and county councillors as part of a major campaign to bring pressure on the Government and the county council to change their minds.
The letter warned: ‘We’re deeply concerned about the impact that these cuts in funding will have on our students.
‘We’ll work our hardest to mitigate the effect of any cuts we’re forced to make, but funding shortfalls of this amount are impossible to address without drastic measures.
‘This might include staffing reductions, increased workloads for staff, a reduced curriculum offer and less support for students.’
According to teaching unions, every state school in the Totnes area is facing massive funding pressures.
They have said that schools across the county will be worse off by a massive £35m by 2019.
The Grove School in Totnes will lose £79,177, or £337 per pupil; St John’s Primary School in Totnes will lose £66,702, or £348 per pupil; Dartington Primary School will lose £90,702, or £357 per pupil; Berry Pomeroy School will lose £29,515, or £287 per pupil; and Harbertonford Primary School will lose £11,600, or £145 per pupil.
This week Totnes’s Liberal Democrat county councillor Robert Vint warned that ‘these Conservative cuts, by both the Government and the county council, will damage the education of our children for many years to come’.
He continued: ‘I’m deeply disappointed that the Conservative county councillors rejected our alternative balanced budget, which had been checked by officers and would have retained school funding at the same level as previous years’.
‘We’ve successfully reversed Conservative plans to abolish school crossing patrols and we’ll continue to fight all cuts that harm schools and schoolchildren at every opportunity.’
Meanwhile, the GMB union has warned that schools across the county face ‘heart-breaking’ choices in the face of the cuts.
Kevicc pointed out that for years Devon has been one of the lowest-funded education authorities in England, with school receiving some £290 per student less than the national average.
After years of campaigning, a new ‘fairer’ funding formula will mean that 60 per cent of students educated in Devon will be in schools that lose money.
The letter pointed out: ‘Although Kevicc itself is forecast to make a very small gain (less than £35,000 on a £6m-plus annual budget), it is clear that the proposed formula disadvantages young people in our local area and across the county, particularly as it takes money away from many of our fantastic local primary schools, which of course then directly impacts children’s chances and opportunities as they move through the education system.
‘As a school, Kevicc faces rising costs owing to national policy decisions beyond our control.
‘One is the increasing cost of employing the staff who make such a difference to our students’ progress and achievements at a time when our funding declines in real terms.
‘These increased costs include a rise in the National Living Wage, increased employer National Insurance and pension contributions, the new apprenticeship levy and teacher pay rises, which though capped at one per cent have not been provided for in our funding allocation.
‘On top of this, Devon County Council recently decided to take another £33 per student from the budget of every school to pay back a deficit in its funding of the support required by children with special educational needs and disabilities. This is a further cut of £29,370 from Kevicc’s budget.
‘We are proud of our college and our community and the work we do together to ensure the best for our students.
‘We are anxious to maintain these standards without losing teachers and support staff, reducing the opportunities for children or cutting enrichment and extracurricular activities, while also coping with historic underinvestment in our school site and facilities.
‘As a school community, we are therefore seeking your support in raising awareness of this urgent situation facing our college.
‘We continue to raise concerns at all levels through our professional associations and directly with elected representatives at local and national levels.
‘We are also keenly aware of the great pressure that can be brought to bear by our wider community contacting their representatives directly.
‘With that in mind, we are asking you to consider:
l Contacting your MP directly to express your concerns over rising costs and the funding formula consultation.
l Contacting your local county councillor seeking an overturn of the £33 per student cut to basic funding for Devon schools.
l Campaigning, awareness raising and organising support within the community to highlight the issues and the impact they will have on our local schools.’
Grove School head Hilary Priest said the financial forecasts were ‘depressing’, but added: ‘We aim to lose no staff at all and to maintain our high standards by very careful budget planning and increasing our fundraising efforts.’