Sidmouth Primary set to lose £100k per year

Paul Walker.

Paul Walker. - Credit: Archant

The most vulnerable pupils will suffer in cuts that could slash Sidmouth Primary School’s annual budget by £100,000, its headteacher has warned.

Paul Walker (pictured) has appealed to Devon County Council (DCC) to address the ‘acute pressure’ on funding for special educational needs (SEN) that - together with a reduction to a school improvement grant - will see the town lose up to £50,000 a year.

A further blow came on Wednesday with the launch of a consultation on a national ‘fairer funding’ formula that could see the school lose another £50,000 – despite its annual budget being a third less than those in London.

The six-figure total loss is around five per cent of the school’s budget.

Mr Walker said the ‘only solution’ is for more cash to be put into the system and he is calling on residents to lobby their MPs.

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“This problem is not going to go away,” he said. “It’s got to be reviewed.

“The only way to change is for the Government to put more money in.”

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DCC may have to divert ‘already scarce’ main school funding to SEN as changes mean it will have to support young people up to the age of 25.

Devon schools have long lobbied for fairer funding from central Government - and were expecting an increase. The new funding formula will give schools a bigger lump sum to pay for services, but less per pupil.

Mr Walker said small primaries, such as Musbury, will gain – it will get around £28,000 – but Sidmouth primary, with 500 pupils, is set to lose out by £50,000 a year.

Primary and secondary schools across Devon are likely to be affected in different ways. Sidmouth College stands to lose £56,000 a year due to the ‘fairer funding’ formula.

The cuts come at a time when schools are having to do more with less, in terms of staff pay reviews, pension changes and the introduction of the national living wage.

In his role as chairman of the Devon Association of Primary Headteachers, Mr Walker wrote to all DCC members saying schools will have to take some ‘very undesirable and far-reaching decisions’ to balance the finite resources available.

He added: “Sadly, the implications of these decisions will undoubtedly impact upon the children in our care, including those from some of our most vulnerable families, and these will ultimately manifest further into the wider community.”

He told the Herald: “Our plea is for the local authority to do something in the short-term and, in the long-term, is for people to lobby their MPs.”

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