Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Parents to help fund school hit by cuts

Parents to help fund school hit by cuts

A HENLEY school is to launch a fund to which parents can donate to offset budget cuts.

Gillotts School says it has been asked by several parents if they can contribute as the secondary is set to lose out under the Government’s proposed new funding formula.

The current formula is calculated by local education authorities, such as Oxfordshire County Council, which means similar schools in different parts of the country receive vastly different amounts.

The Government says this is unfair and outdated and its plans would reduce the geographical variations.

Gillotts headteacher Catharine Darnton has called the new formula “untenable”.

She said her academy had received the same amount from the county council every year since 2010 but this would be cut by 1.1 per cent, about £40,000, under the Government’s proposals.

David Gorsuch, who is chairman of governors, welcomed the fund.

He said: “It’s an excellent idea because we have parents who want to contribute to the school and this is an opportunity for them to do so.

“We have to make hard choices because we have seen our real-terms income fall and I think that’s been widely discussed, so the additional funding for things that we simply won’t be able to pay for otherwise seems like an excellent idea, especially if people are able to provide it.

“We’re not in the business of pressuring people to contribute. It’s an opportunity rather than having a fund-raising target or anything like that. The reality is our costs are increasing and our funding isn’t but we’re not in the position where we must have this money or the wheels are going to come off.

“We’re committed to the concept of a state-funded education; we’re a state-funded school. We’re committed to providing every student in our school with the best education we can based on government funding.”

The school’s latest newsletter to parents says Gillotts has had to cope with general inflation, nationally imposed pay rises and rises in pension contributions, among other pressures, for the past seven years.

It continues: “As a result, the overall cost of running the school has increased by 14 per cent. To cope, we have reduced spending on IT, on the premises and on curriculum resources.

“However, only about 20 per cent of our spending is on areas such as these — about 80 per cent of our expenditure is on staff.

“Like many other schools, we have reached the point where we will have to cut staff in order to cut costs further. This puts at risk class sizes, the quality of the curriculum and the quality of pastoral support we can provide.

“Many headteachers are saying that this is neither a wise nor a safe thing to do, hence the campaign for the overall spending on education to be increased.

“Oxfordshire has always been a relatively poorly funded authority so it had never crossed our minds that a ‘fairer’ formula would make us a loser!

“Gillotts is in a relatively strong position because we are a successful school and we do also have a reserve, which was put aside in the early days of being an academy against exactly such difficult times as we are facing now.

“However, it is important that we both secure additional funding for education and change the proposed national funding formula before we have to make changes to our curriculum and support structure that would perceptibly affect the quality of what we do.”

Henley MP John Howell has said the formula “does not appear to live up to what was promised” and that he will raise this with the Education Secretary.

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