Double blow for schools

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Rye’s schools face a double blow with national cuts affecting funding for all schools in addition to losses accumulated locally by the Trust which runs the combined schools in the Rye Academy ; and there will be no new student intake for Rye Studio School in the next academic year 2017/8.

A demonstration near the schools on Tuesday afternoon, March 14, against the national cuts in funding was followed in the evening by a private meeting for parents and students at the Studio School. Students’ options included moving to other schools or colleges or taking up alternative courses.

The Rye Academy Trust decided at their meeting on March 6 to cease Year 12 studies at the Studio School and to embark on a wider re-organisation across the board. Arrangements are being pursued for Year 12 students to continue their studies at other schools in the area. Individual information, advice and guidance interviews will be provided for every student.

A recovery programme is to be instituted in conjunction with the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency (EFA). The first phase consolidation plan has commenced with staff consultations on restructuring and will lead to a new emphasis on a core curriculum of science, English and maths.

Trust Chief Executive Officer Tim Hulme, in a press release dated March 13, referred to financial pressures on the Trust resulting from “losses relating to 2015-16 of some £750,000 which would increase to £1.0m for 2016-17 (if unchecked)”. Rye College staffing costs are currently in excess of 90% of its core income and there is also a £574,000 clawback to EFA in respect of under-performance (for not recruiting sufficient student numbers during the first two years of operations).

There are additional pressures for 2017-18 with the introduction of an apprenticeship levy for schools, and increased NI and pension contribution costs. The Trust received notification last week that the funding for primary students, key stage 3 and key stage 4, is being reduced. This will have a negative impact of £90k.”

A recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies stated that spending per pupil is to fall 6.5%, with sixth-forms facing a continued squeeze on budgets. Five head teachers’ and teachers’ unions have issued a joint statement saying schools face the “biggest real-terms cuts in a generation”. The Association of School and College Leaders, the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Voice Union say that schools “urgently need additional investment”. The statement says “ We are already seeing job losses, increased class sizes and cuts to courses in our schools and colleges.”

Tim Hulme commented: “It is disappointing that while schools face a severe funding crisis, £240m is being spent on expanding grammars and further funds are being offered to new free schools. Rye Academy Trust is a relatively small one and cannot sustain the current level of operating costs against a backdrop of cuts to pupil funding. The Trust is already struggling to maintain services and is having to restrict essential support services.

“The Trust is now at breaking point and the only way the Trust is going to manage this significant cut in real terms is through a re-organisation to ensure we establish a sustainable future and a strong set of schools for the community of Rye for the next 100 years. The Trust is currently responsible for over 1,000 young people and we have a duty to them all.

“I fear that the hard work of school staff is concealing the extent of the financial difficulties, so teachers strive harder, support staff plug gaps, and leaders try to sleep at night whilst trying to solve a problem that is not of their making.

Our three schools are struggling to function adequately on a day-to-day basis, and, in addition, we are severely hampered in our ability to recruit and retain staff. This has a direct impact on how we work with reasonable teacher-pupil ratios and to buy basic equipment.”

 

 

 

 

 

Photo : Heidi Foster

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