School facing funding nightmare

By Dave Gooderham A SCHOOL has criticised crippling Government budget cuts, which have forced it to make redundancies and increase class sizes.Consultations have started with staff at Riverside Middle School in Mildenhall, who are facing the prospect of losing another three colleagues.

By Dave Gooderham

A SCHOOL has criticised crippling Government budget cuts, which have forced it to make redundancies and increase class sizes.

Consultations have started with staff at Riverside Middle School in Mildenhall, who are facing the prospect of losing another three colleagues.

Class sizes are also expected to rise from 24 pupils to 30 following a drop in budgetary support from the Government.


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School headteacher, Caroline Yates, said: “We are having to look very seriously at redundancies and we are currently holding consultations regarding this matter.

“The staff are inevitably very concerned about this. We have a very good team of staff at the school and they are maintaining a high level of morale, but they are very concerned about the future.”

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She added: “When I joined the school in June, I realised it had so much going for it with good staff members and very supportive parents.

“Everything looked really great, but it is a real shame that we are now having to concentrate very hard on the financial situation the school has found itself in.”

Current predictions indicate pupil numbers will have dropped by more than 60 between January 2003 and September 2004.

Much of this is attributed to American families from the nearby RAF Mildenhall leaving the area or preferring to send their children to U.S. schools in Lakenheath or Feltwell.

That in turn has led to a decrease in Government money - determined by school sizes - and redundancies.

Although the school has had to make three redundancies since January, two resignations and one early retirement negated this problem.

But now Riverside Middle School is facing up to the possibility of axing three more members of staff by September 2005.

Chairman of governors, Michael Croughton, said: “The numbers have fallen quite quickly and dramatically and there is not much money to cushion the transition.

“We are a very successful school and we got a good Ofsted report last year. In the past, the school has tended to go for quite a high staff to pupil ratio.

“But it now it looks as if we are going to have to have slightly higher class sizes, but I do not think pupil's education will be affected.

“Although we are all gutted, the morale is still quite good and the governors and staff are remaining positive.”

The school has enlisted the help of Richard Spring, the West Suffolk MP, who, along with staff, has written to Education Secretary Charles Clarke about its plight.

Mr Spring said: “Riverside always has a happy and positive atmosphere and the staff are hard-working, enthusiastic and professional.

“The school, the teachers and the governing body are a credit to the town and the local community.

“But if a solution to this problem is not forthcoming, the budgetary problems the school faces will only increase.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “Significant changes in pupil rolls can usually be predicted and adjustments to expenditure can therefore be planned.

“However, a fall in students will inevitably have an impact on a school's budget, which can result in the need to make staffing adjustments.

“Full support is available to assist the school to achieve the necessary changes and the county council gives support and assistance to schools in their financial management process.”

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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