Class sizes rise as cash crisis bites

A HEADTEACHER has said she has no choice but to increase class sizes while cutting staff numbers because of budgetary constraints.Sara Muzira , headteacher at Ixworth Middle School, spoke of her sadness after she revealed her school would not be able to replace two part-time teaching staff – mirroring problems currently faced by many schools.

A HEADTEACHER has said she has no choice but to increase class sizes while cutting staff numbers because of budgetary constraints.

Sara Muzira , headteacher at Ixworth Middle School, spoke of her sadness after she revealed her school would not be able to replace two part-time teaching staff – mirroring problems currently faced by many schools.

She said: "This is as a direct result of staff costs being high and the school not getting enough money to cover an increase in national insurance and pension costs.

"This left us with the situation that we needed to reduce our staff and increase our class sizes to make it viable.


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"Even so, we are still going to end up with a budget deficit. There has been a great deal of uncertainty at the school and there still will be over the next two years as we try and come out of our deficit situation."

Both members of staff were on a part time basis, but in total worked at the school for more than 30 hours a week.

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One has chosen to take voluntary redundancy while another member is leaving and will not be replaced.

The school, which serves pupils from Bardwell, Barnham, Great Barton, Honington, Ixworth and Norton, blamed an increase of just 1.7% in their budget for 2003/04.

Mrs Muzira said they had no option but to reduce staff training and cut spending on repairs and educational supplies.

She added: "The uncertainty about redundancies and cuts in support staff hours has led to anxiety amongst the staff.

"I would like to think we can maintain academic standards despite these problems but with the added workload for teachers and larger class sizes, it will be difficult."

Meanwhile, Jill Harrison, headteacher at Riverside Middle School, said problems with the budget were a contributory factor in her decision to retire at Christmas.

Mrs Harrison, 59, said: "I was going to retire in Easter but all these problems with the budget crystallised my thinking.

"It made me realise that next year there will be such a difficult budget and I thought it was only fair to give a new headteacher the chance to manage it themselves."

Mrs Harrison said Riverside was losing two teachers, one leaving for Canada and another who worked temporarily, and they would not be replaced.

She added: "If it wasn't for those two teachers going, we would have been in a similar situation to Ixworth.

"We have done so much here and we were really moving along – but it has come to a halt. It has got a stage where we were discussing yesterday where we could afford to re-equip one classroom with new chairs."

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring, who spoke about the budget crisis at the House of Commons on Wednesday , said: "This is a very unfortunate problem and something that is very distressing, not only for the individual who is made redundant, but it is very difficult for the school to cope with at a time when pupil levels are increasing.

"I am very concerned about this, we have excellent schools in west Suffolk but the county council and the Government seem incapable of addressing this problem."

Tony Lewis, portfolio holder for children and young people at Suffolk County Council, said they would be working closely with schools which have budgetary difficulties.

He said: "Education is a top priority for the county council and we have fought hard for a fair funding deal, as we will continue to do in the future.

"We are continuing to make representations at national level and feel that our voice has been heard. "We look forward to the government continuing the impressive financial commitment to education that has been a hallmark of recent years."

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