Governors outline all options for first school
CONCERNED parents attended a meeting at Belford First School on Monday night at which the future of education in the village was up for discussion.
The meeting had been organised by school governors to talk about any immediate concerns parents might have as a result of budget cuts hitting rural schools.
However, possible alternative models of education, such as sharing the same site as the neighbouring St Mary’s Middle School were also discussed.
Dr Saul Miller, chairman of governors, said: “It was a good meeting. It was primarily a chance for the governors to address parents about some of the issues facing schools such as ours.”
A letter to parents explained that new government funding rules mean small rural schools are facing severe cuts to their budget.
Allowances for the size of school buildings and grounds have been removed, making income even more closely tied to pupil numbers than before. This means schools like Belford, with large premises and few children (the school officially has space for 150) will lose money in future.
“There is no crisis,” warned Dr Miller. “But if we do nothing, the problems will worsen. Over time, schools like ours will spend an ever bigger share of their budget simply on their buildings and not on their pupils. Education will suffer. As the governors of Belford First School, we must ensure the school not only survives but thrives.”
The governors have therefore looked at three potential choices - cutting costs, keeping children until the age of 11 and sharing a building with the middle school.
“We have already done most of the sensible things we can to cut costs,” said Dr Miller. “Our only way of saving big amounts of money would be to employ fewer staff and have bigger class sizes. The county council have advised us to take this option. However, we want to keep our excellent staff.
“Another option is to convert to academy status and then become a primary school, keeping years 5 and 6 children. This would need negotiation with a local high school to make it a truly viable option. It would not be helpful to middle schools though.
“Option three - Belford schools sharing one building - would solve many of the problems related to being in buildings that have more space than is funded. It would also allow the schools to explore closer working and other cost savings.
“Of course, it would not be easy. Still, we think this is the best option for keeping 5-13 education in the village.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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