Government and council funding cuts of up to 80,000 could…

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North Devon schools could lose £80,000 from their budgets if government and county council funding cuts go ahead – and a local councillor has warned this could mean the end for village schools.

South Molton Councillor David Worden voiced this concern after raising the motion that North Devon Council should agree to lobby the government to ask that changes are urgently implemented which will “eradicate the historic underfunding which schools in North Devon receive”.

Mr Worden also requested the district council ask the county council to reinstate the finance which was used to provide additional funding for small rural schools.

The item was referred to the executive committee for discussion from the full council meeting on Wednesday, January 18.

Michael Johnson, executive head of Chulmleigh Community College, and Andrew Finney, principal at South Molton Community College, spoke up at North Devon Council’s meeting of the executive on Monday, January 6.

Mr Johnson said: “There will be real problems ahead for rural schools in North Devon. Devon County Council are consulting about what they intend to change for 2017, and the national government are consulting about what they intend to change for 2018 – it’s bad news for us on both counts.

“It has been said the cuts in Devon County Council’s funding consultation will affect Braunton, South Molton and Chulmleigh schools the most, and the reductions are alarming. For funding, North Devon suffers more than other areas in Devon and Devon suffers more than other shires in England.

“Small schools will get £33 per child taken away to be shifted between the blocks from lower need to higher need children. Multiplied by the amount of children, this is a potential loss of £80,000 for schools like Chulmleigh. We believe this could be reduced to £11 per child and the costs would still be covered.

“I hope the council will ask some questions about the points being made, because our schools have been unrepresented. I would like to know how much these schools are getting per child and how does that compare with other schools in Devon, in the south west, and nationally. I think that would be quite revealing.

“Small schools are not just a business, they have tremendous impact on our communities in terms of the viability of those rural and sparse areas. The quality of these schools and the people coming into these schools is a priority.”

Mr Johnson told the council that previous funding cuts had meant Chulmleigh had to go through a redundancy process and let staff go and schools had lower than average number of teaching assistants and lower than average funding for teaching staff.

Mr Finney said: “We are looking at £215 less per Key Stage 3 child and £335 less per Key Stage 4 child. We already have less support assistants in the classroom for our most vulnerable students, and less teaching assistants and counsellors, and children here need that support most of all.

“It is already difficult to recruit high quality teachers as our rurality means a relocation of the entire family to take on a new position. With less funding, this will become even harder.”

Councillor Des Brailey, leader of the council, proposed Dawn Stabb, Devon County Council’s head of education and learning, be invited to the next meeting to answer further queries, seconded by Councillor Jeremy Yabsley, who said he was greatly concerned about the issue.

Councillor David Worden said: “This is a national problem and it is very very important. The authority has failed in many ways to provide as much as they should for the rural schools. We are just not getting our fair share from the government. The 10 best funded areas are getting £2,000 more per child than we are.

“We cannot pare back in our schools any more, it’s just impossible for them to cut back anymore staff without having a real impact on the education of our students. They are the future of this country.

“It is no good coming up with a system that has so many caveats. We are going to have schools going bankrupt. We do not want to have to close our village schools. We need to get someone to listen.”

The committee voted to unanimously approve formulating a response to the proposed funding cuts and to lobby the government and the county council to rethink the changes.