College faces funding cuts of £600,000 a year

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South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton is the strongest performing sixth form in the county.

It's a school of 1400 pupils but it's facing a funding crisis.

The budget is being reduced by hundreds of thousands of pounds and the head has told teachers they need to take a pay cut.

Executive Principal Hugh Bellamy said, "We're doing everything we can to avoid redundancies and to maintain our present contingent of staff."

"You're looking at a crazy situation where in every subject area we've got new syllabuses, we need new text books and yet we have no money to buy them so teachers are working harder and harder."

"The Government need to address the funding shortfall. We need to reprioritise in this country."

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David Ray, a teacher at the college, said "We have a very, very resilient staff and a very strong staff as well but we can't ignore the fact that morale is low."

"Morale is very very low and we are having to really, really pull together, more than we've ever done before to sustain and manage and hopefully create some plans that will allow us to be successful in the future but it's difficult and nobody, I think, would deny that."

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It's been described as a perfect storm - cuts under the Government's fairer funding formula, payments for the new apprenticeship levy, money has to be found to pay for a shortfall in the Local Government Pension Scheme - it all adds up to a significant bill.

Under the current proposals this school would be looking at a reduction in funding of £600,000 a year by 2019.

To put that into a bit of context, that's enough to pay for 15 teachers but if you had to remove 15 teachers from the staff, class sizes would be increased to something like 40 students in every class.

That would be impossible to deal with. The classrooms can't even accommodate that many children.

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"The older students, we already felt the effects of the cuts, for example when we did coursework in year 10/11 we had to bring in our own paper and use our own resources for the actual learning and just to hear that there's more cuts means it's going to be even worse."

Pupil

"You're limited with what you get as it is and then if they're cutting even more then it's going to damage people's education at the end of the day really."

Pupil

"It does feel very wrong that it's happening. It's already very tight on money and it's just becoming tighter."

Pupil
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South Dartmoor is an academy with control of its own finances, but across Devon schools are expected to be hit. The County Council says smaller schools may benefit but larger primary schools and most secondaries will see their funding cut. Is this really a fairer funding formula?

Cllr James McInnes, Devon County Council, said "I don't think it's fairer no. I congratulate the Government for actually grasping the nettle and bringing out a new fair funding formula but this isn't the answer because a third of schools are losing money in Devon.

"In fact six in ten children will actually attend schools that lose money and that can't be fair when we're a very low-funded authority in the first place."

There is a consultation open for another four weeks. Schools like South Dartmoor are trying to encourage as many parents as possible to get involved with that to reinforce how important it is that their children's education is adequately funded.

In a statement the Department for Education said the government's fairer funding proposals are designed to end the historic unfairness in the system, and make sure areas with the greatest need get the most funding.

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