Opinion: The great value of a real NEWSpaper

Braeburn School is just one of our local schools affected by the proposed cuts in school funding.
Braeburn School is just one of our local schools affected by the proposed cuts in school funding.

If you have ever hesitated as you counted out £1.35 at the newsagent and questioned the value for money of a local newspaper in the digital age, last week’s The Scarborough News provided the clearest possible answer.

Our newspaper did a job that no local radio, television station or internet site could do: it gave us an in-depth analysis of the way that a national policy might adversely affect local provision.

Let me help you to recall the gist of that front page: Scarborough schools could be in line for cuts in funding that will devastate provision for our children.

Even I, a school governor, had not appreciated the scale and depth of the possible cuts, resulting from changes to the funding formula used to calculate school budgets.

Just some of the possible reductions currently projected include:

Barrowcliff (minus £223,275) may have to lose 6 staff

Braeburn (minus £301,742) and Friarage (£252,201) may each have to lose 8 staff

Gladstone Road (minus £508,031) may have to lose 14 (yes 14) staff

Secondary schools are equally vulnerable. Graham, in particular, could be badly hit, as might primaries in surrounding areas such as Malton, Norton and Pickering. This is not just a case of putting restrictions on the use of the photocopier or opting for the second class post, such economies are already in place anyway. Budget cuts of this magnitude will mean worsening staffing levels and a lowering of standards.

Elsewhere in The Scarborough News, there were the usual stories of children’s successes in sport and the arts. Could we be seeing fewer of these in the future if the cuts bite?

Chris Knowles, headteacher at Newby and Scalby Primary School, wrote an eye-catching letter to MP Robert Goodwill. Adopting the persona of ‘any child in your constituency’ he spelled out the concerns of most local headteachers. Let me give you a flavour of it:

“ … I understand that my share of the school’s total income is about £4,786 each year … What I don’t understand is how the government thinks that in 2019 it will be possible to provide me with the same quality of education with only £4,402 per child in your constituency. That’s a 7% decrease in funding and £385 less per pupil. My school has more than 420 pupils. I know that 420 times £385 is a big number …”

Following a meeting with headteachers, the MP has agreed to take the matter further by writing to the Minister at the Department for Education, Nick Gibb. Indeed he has forwarded Chris Knowles’ letter and requested advice as to how schools can continue to 
deliver the quality we all want, when the possible cuts are so swingeing.

As many commentators have pointed out, there seems to be money available for free schools and grammar schools.

Neither of these is likely to surface in the Scarborough area.

Are our schools losing money in order to subsidise pet projects elsewhere?

Oh yes, and well done The Scarborough News.