Sidmouth Primary School to mix classes following funding reduction

Paul Walker.

Paul Walker. - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Primary School is cutting its number of key stage two classes for the next academic year from 12 to 10 due to a reduction in its funding.

From September, pupils will be taught in mixed age groups, combining year threes with year fours, and year fives with year sixes, in a move to make savings.

In a letter to parents, executive headteacher Paul Walker said it had been a ‘challenging year’ for the school’s finances - as its total funding is nearly £300,000 less when compared to 2015.

The funding, which is calculated on a per pupil basis, has been further impacted by cuts and reductions by Devon County Council and the Government.

One parent told the Herald she was concerned about the educational spectrum staff would be required to teach.

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The mum, who has two children at the school, said: “I know the teachers will do their very best.

“This cost-cutting exercise means that teachers will be teaching an incredibly broad spread of abilities within the same class - they will have to differentiate hugely to cater for the weakest year five and strongest year six pupil, for instance.

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“Year five parents are concerned that their children will be ‘left to get on with it’ when teachers are trying to prepare the year six pupils for the farcical SATs. There are many concerned and angry parents.”

Mr Walker reassured parents it was not unusual to mix year groups.

He said the school has mixed classes on its infants’ site.

“If we run 12 classes and stayed as we are, we would be in a serious financial difficulty and we are not allowed to be,” said Mr Walker.

“We have to balance our books, as anyone has to.

“It is different at key stage two. We haven’t had mixed-aged classes for a long time. It’s not unusual, it’s just different for these age groups.

“If we did not take action this year, next year we would be in a far worse position.”

He said the school had looked at all possible avenues to make savings and to have fewer classes would maintain financial sustainability and provide children with a good education and experiences.

Mr Walker said staff have always taught a wide spectrum of abilities and that many of the key stage two teachers have worked in this way before.

“The pupil numbers will always dictate funding,” said Mr Walker.

“At the same time, any increase we can get can only have a positive impact.”

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