Schools all over West Sussex are being forced to make staff redundant as the education funding crisis continues to bite.
At Thomas A Becket Junior School, in Glebeside Avenue, a consultation is under way to cut seven full-time equivalent (FTE) learning support roles from September.
For two years, headteacher John Gadd has been battling alongside staff, governors, parents and fellow heads for fairer funding from the government, while more and more pressure was piled onto his budget.
In addition, his school has been suffering the “negative effects” of recent changes to the Worthing age of transfer – which saw the town change to a two-tier primary and secondary school system rather than the old three-tier first, middle and secondary system.
While the changes brought the town’s schools in line with the majority of the country, they meant big changes for Thomas A Becket – and a loss of money.
Initially, the plan had been for the school to rise to eight forms of entry, taking in 240 children per year. That was then changed to make Thomas A Becket a six form of entry school, taking in 180 children per year.
This, along with the loss of the Year 7 cohort, meant the funding received by the school “reduced significantly”.
Mr Gadd said: “Continuing budget pressures on West Sussex schools as a result of the very low per pupil funding in relation to other local authorities have also contributed to budget pressures.
“Unfortunately, as a consequence of these continuing budget pressures the governing body has decided to reduce learning support provision at the school from September 2017, following benchmarking with other local junior schools which will bring our levels of provision broadly into line with comparable schools.”
Looking at how the staff losses would affect the children, Mr Gadd said: “While having to reduce provision overall we have been very careful to protect support for those pupils with additional needs and for those designated as disadvantaged.”
Worthing schools are not the only ones having to make tough decisions regarding staff.
In Bognor, Felpham Community College, 5.5 FTE support staff look set to lose their jobs in September.
Headteacher Mark Anstiss placed the blame for the cuts firmly at the feet of the funding crisis.
He said: “If the National Funding Formula had been implemented when initially proposed – April 2017 – then we may have been okay. If we had received the interim funding that we campaigned for then we would not have needed to take these steps.”
Most of the Felpham staff affected work part-time and Mr Anstiss said he hoped some would opt for voluntary redundancy.
He added: “Clearly, this is a position we had hoped to avoid. As a West Sussex school we have been underfunded for years and know how to operate on a tight budget. But this year has been a step too far. The Government can’t keep adding extra cost burdens to schools and expect them to be absorbed. It is hugely frustrating to go through this process when we know similar schools in different areas are funded far more generously than us.”
Looking at the affect the redundancies will have, he said: “Although we have tried to minimise the impact on the provision we provide, there will be consequences.
“Teachers will have less support for their work, admin tasks will take longer to complete and some extra services we currently provide will be reduced.”
Dan Sartin, branch secretary for Unison West Sussex, which represents many school support staff, said: “These cuts represent a personal disaster for the staff who have often made it their life’s work to support their community school and its children.
“These cuts are a disaster too for their families and the local economy. And they are a disaster for the children who we educate in our local schools and for their parents.”
Figures from Unison, stated that Chichester High School would be making five FTE teachers and three FTE support staff redundant.
However, headteacher Yasmin Maskatiya said the figures were “very out of date” and “the actual situation is much better than initially discussed with the unions”.
She added: “I can confirm that we expect to make two people redundant this year: one teacher and member of the support staff. Of course, we may not have to do this at all if the staffing situation changes in ways unforeseen as yet.”
Mr Sartin appealed for headteachers to be open with parents about the consequences of the job losses on their schools. He said: “We accept that the school did not make the funding crisis: the Government did. But there still needs to be transparency about the impact.”
He also echoed calls from headteachers for parents to write to their MPs to demand a fairer settlement for all schools.
Mr Sartin added: “It is shocking and a disgrace that the Government is leaving schools to make these valuable staff redundant and knowingly undermining the education of our children, whilst at the same time it is earmarking hundreds of millions of pounds to fund un-needed and damaging grammar and free schools.
“Parents will be shocked to learn that the money is there – it is just being diverted to ideological pet projects.”