Funding crisis could force schools to cut opening hours

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SUS-160922-163951001

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West Sussex schools may have to consider not opening five days a week if the government fails to address the ongoing education funding crisis.

Such was the message from headteachers who have been struggling to make ends meet as the cost of running their schools rises.

As one of the worst-funded local authorities in the country, West Sussex receives £40million per year less than the national average and £200million less than some London boroughs.

With rising national insurance and pension costs to cover, that shortfall has left schools at breaking point.

Peter Woodman, head of The Weald School, in Billingshurst, said: “What is frightening is when you start saying ‘do we have enough money to open five days a week?’

“We’re not saying we’re going there yet, we’re saying on the range of things, absolutely everything needs to be explored.”

His words were echoed by Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, in Horsham, who said school leaders had been left having to contemplate any option to make ends meet.

He added: “This includes increasing class sizes again, reducing our curriculum, not replacing staff and considering revised opening hours.

“This is the last thing that any school leader would want to do but if your authority receives £200million less than the average London borough each year then this is what happens.”

Grahame Robson, head of Manor Green special school, in Crawley, said his school was underfunded “by just shy of £1million per year”.

He added: “I haven’t replaced staff and have increased class size to cope. Our nominal maximum is 12 students per class; I have one of 14 and one of 16 this year.

“I had to save approximately £80,000 last year, which has caused us real problems, and indications are that next year will be worse.”

The headteachers have contacted all West Sussex MPs to arrange a meeting to stress how dire the situation has become and emphasise the consequences of continued under-funding.

So far, only Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) and Jeremy Quin (Horsham) have responded and agreed to attend.

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