TWENTY teachers from just one school in Dorset face job losses as potential cuts leave schools ‘at breaking point’. 

Headteachers in Weymouth and Dorchester have launched a plea for parents to push education funding up the political agenda ahead of next month’s general election, amid fears that government funding for the county could be slashed even further by 2019.

Kevin Broadway, headteacher at All Saints School in Weymouth, wrote an open letter to parents last week highlighting the funding troubles facing the school, warning that the quality of education could slide if more cuts are made. 

He urges parents and carers to lobby their West Dorset and South Dorset parliamentary candidates, and question how parties will ensure an adequate education for their children in the future. 

Mr Broadway said: “Our school is facing a financial hardship. We do all we can to make sure our decisions don’t affect the learning of the children, but this is becoming increasingly more difficult.

“There is nothing more important to a parent than the education of their child, aside from their happiness of course. 

“A recent head teacher conference said we need £4,500 per pupil to fund a school adequately. In Dorset, we get paid significantly below that amount. It wouldn’t go too far to say we are discriminated against. 

“Standards are in danger of declining if we keep on having to make more cuts. This will impact on the quality of education.”

Data collected by education groups including the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), shows that Dorset could see a budget loss of just under £18million by 2019, a loss of around £370 funding per pupil, and 480 teachers county-wide. 

Other schools in the county are feeling the pressure of future cuts as they are forced to discuss redundancies, fewer resources, larger classes and the possibility of multiple year groups being taught in the same lesson. 

Mike Foley, headteacher of Thomas Hardye school in Dorchester, warned that schools could see an eight per cent budget cut by 2019/20. 

He said: “Like everyone else at the moment, we are making cuts and not replacing staff as they are leaving. 

“Year on year we are having to reduce the amount of teachers, which is true of almost every school.
“In Dorset we are one of the worst funded areas in the country. 

“The budget is being reduced by eight percent, which means we would need to lose 20 teachers by 2020. 

“When I first came here in 2011 we needed 12 students in one class to make it work. Now we need 19.” 

Local unions have also spoken out over the troubles that Dorset’s schools face, appealing for parents to actively address the issue and use their vote wisely. 

Alison Chown, acting divisional secretary for NUT in Dorset, said: “What we want parents to be reassured about is that Dorset schools are run by dedicated staff who do their upmost to ensure that the quality of education for children is the best it can be.

“All parents want the best for their children. They should lobby all their candidates, then the parents can make a choice about where they use their vote, I would want them to think that they do have a vote and it does count.”

Vanessa Lucas, secretary at Dorset NAHT, said: “Local head teachers have raised the issue of funding to make parents aware of the difficult situation, and also to reassure them that they will do everything in their power to avoid making decisions that will impact on pupils or standards of education.

“School budgets are at breaking point; more money for schools is absolutely vital. 

“Schools are faced with making tough decisions to balance the books; efficiencies have already been achieved so now ‘savings’ may have to come from staffing cuts. 

“Staff and governors know that this will have a massive impact on young people and standards of education. 

“The future of our country depends upon the next generation. 

“We ask for everyone not to see education as a cost but an investment in the future.”

Dorset is one of lowest funded counties

DORSET is one of the lowest funded areas for education in England, receiving thousands less than some urban counties.

Government Dedicated Schools Grant data highlights gaps in funding which show that Dorset continues to lose out to big cities like London, Liverpool and Manchester.

It comes despite the county gaining from a new funding formula introduced by the government in December last year, aiming to help cash-strapped schools by moving money from urban to rural areas.

According to DSG allocations spread over 150 areas in the country, Dorset receives the fifteenth lowest amount of £4240 per pupil. Poole receives an even lower £4,166 per pupil.

Tower of Hamlets in London is the highest funded area, receiving £6,965 per pupil, over £2,500 more than Dorset. 

Manchester receives the most funding outside of capital, with £5,280 per pupil. 

The country is facing a potential £3billion cut to education funding by 2019-20. Schools and unions in the county are keen to address the issue ahead of next month’s election, warning of slipping standards and teacher redundancies. 

Geoff Cooke, who works with the National Union of Teachers in Dorchester, said: “Virtually every school in the county is going to lose funding over the next two or three years. It means larger classes, less resources and of course, redundancies.

“What it means is that they could end up teaching five and six year olds together. 

“We worry that it is going to be even more common, and they will teach five, six, seven and eight year olds together. They won’t be able to pinpoint classes to a certain age.”

What the candidates think

ELECTION candidates in West Dorset and South Dorset constituencies have given their thoughts on the potential ‘crisis’ facing schools in the county over the next three years, ahead of next month’s general election. 

Fears amongst teachers and parents are rising as schools are forced to hold redundancy meetings.

Oliver Letwin, Conservative candidate for West Dorset said: “I have been in touch with a number of head teachers and the government about issues of funding for West Dorset schools over the past few months. 

“With the £1billion of additional cash promised by the government, it will be possible to guarantee that no schools see a reduction in funding.

“I still want to pursue the particular case of Thomas Hardye. We need to make sure Thomas Hardye has a secure financial future.” 

Lee Rhodes, Labour candidate for West Dorset, said: “Our children today are the work force of tomorrow.

“My concern is that schools need funding. What does it say about the future if they don’t get a full education? 

“I would look at a school and see that the biggest cost is staffing, and that’s what I fear, that staff would have to go.

“I’m concerned about the impact that it will have on quality.”

Andy Canning, Lib Dem candidate for West Dorset, said: “For me it’s one of the major issues of the whole election campaign.

“It will be a crisis if the current government plan to withdraw £5billion from schools.”

“Teachers from virtually all schools will be made redundant if the policy is left unchanged. 

“The curriculum would shrink with less choice.

“I think it would be a major setback for children.” 

Kelvin Clayton, Green party candidate for West Dorset said: “We are supposed to be the fifth richest country in the whole world, but if we can’t afford to fund national services like education you can’t help wondering where the money is going.

“A number of schools in West Dorset are seriously considering cutting courses and losing teachers. 

“It’s a true and utter crisis that in 2017 we are looking at such severe cuts to schools.”

Richard Drax, Conservative candidate for South Dorset said: “No one has fought harder for the funding of schools than me. I have done a lot of work with them. 

“I went to visit a primary school just last week to talk about the matter. I wouldn’t call it a ‘crisis’ but I do appreciate that schools are facing challenges.

“I hope in time that the issue can be resolved. It’s very much on my radar.”

Tashi Warr, Labour candidate for South Dorset said: “It is outrageous that headteachers across the country, including right here in Dorset, are having to write to parents warning of a funding crisis facing schools.

“I was lucky enough to be educated in a great local school, Budmouth Technology in College in Weymouth. 

“Labour is committed to ensuring that all schools are properly resourced. 

“We will introduce a fairer funding formula. Labour understands that every child deserves the very best education.”

Howard Legg, Lib Dem candidate for South Dorset said: “In my view no schools should have their funding reduced, it should be maintained in real terms. 

“At the moment there are projected to be around 88 teachers lost in South Dorset over the next three years. To me that’s criminal. 

“The people that are going to suffer are the children.”

Jon Orrell, Green party candidate for South Dorset said: “I’m very concerned about the cuts to education.

“I have children in All Saints and Thomas Hardye school, and I know the teachers do a really good job. 

“Their funding is being cut so they are going to have to lay off teachers. 

“This is a dreadful way to treat our children. We should be investing in them as an asset to our country.”