Principal reassures parents following concerns of textbook shortages at Sidmouth College

James Ingham-Hill has reassured parents about textbooks.

James Ingham-Hill has reassured parents about textbooks. - Credit: Archant

The principal of Sidmouth College has addressed concerns that the school cannot afford enough textbooks in some subjects by vowing pupils’ education will not be compromised.

James Ingham-Hill says history and geography have been affected following changes to its GCSE and A-level syllabuses.

He said that a class set of geography books costing £650 will have to be shared between the GCSE groups and that the Sidmouth College Association had helped with funding.

The school has also purchased A-level books and offered students opportunities to buy their own to later sell back to the school at a second-hand price.

Mr Ingham-Hill told the Herald: “It has indeed been a challenge to fund the new textbooks required for new GCSE and A-level specifications. This year, it has been a particular issue for geography and history, but all subjects will be affected as the rollout of new exams is completed. The cost of these textbooks is yet another pressure on our budget during a period of real terms reductions in funding.”

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Parent Janice Papworth has spent £57 on three textbooks for her son to reduce the number of pupils sharing resources in class.

The Colaton Raleigh resident has written to MP Sir Hugo Swire and called on the community to support the school.

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The mum-of-two said: “This is not a criticism of the school. The teachers are doing a fantastic job to provide the best teaching they can under these difficult circumstances. I cannot imagine what extra work they must have put in to manage without the necessary books.

“I am fortunate that I am able to do this and I guess this is not the case for all pupils. Many parents may be unaware that their children are being taught without enough textbooks to go around and, in some subjects, no textbooks at all. Surely state education should be the same for all pupils? I feel very sad that it has come to this, but I cannot see any way around it other than to fund the books ourselves.

“On the whole, Sidmouth College pupils are pleasant and polite. They even give up time for local charities and fundraise for others in the community. If the Government has let them down, then maybe the Sidmouth community can support them - after all, they are the future of the town and surrounding areas.”

Mr Ingham-Hill wrote to parents this week, saying individual student textbooks are not a requirement to complete any GCSE course.

He said in the letter: “At Sidmouth College, despite well-documented issues regarding reduced funding, we have always ensured that department capitation enables subject areas to purchase the materials required to deliver excellent lessons and enable students to achieve the best outcomes.”

He added the school provided a bursary scheme for students from low-income families and a donation fund to support the college in ‘difficult times’.

Devon county councillors Stuart Hughes and Claire Wright said this week they will continue to fight for fairer funding.

Cllr Hughes, who represents Sidmouth, said: “One of our key pledges during the recent county council elections was to continue our fight for fair funding for Devon’s schools. Every child in Devon is worth £290 less than the national average and that’s not right.”

Cllr Wright, who represents the Otter Vale division, said the Government has let Devon’s schools down ‘very badly’.

She added: “The idea that local schools cannot even afford to buy GCSE textbooks is shocking and unbelievable in the fifth largest economy in the world and it is seriously compromising the education of our children.

“Not only should this damaging new funding formula be scrapped, but our local schools should be properly compensated for their costs and properly funded compared with other schools in the country.”

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