Financial setback for school

A PONTELAND school has been extremely successful, despite a big drop in its funding.

Over a three-year period, starting from last year, Ponteland Middle School will now have to cope with a £184,000 reduction in its allocation from Northumberland County Council – it was planning for a £144,000 decrease.

According to figures from the Department for Education, it receives the lowest budget share per pupil (just over £3,000) out of all the middle schools in England.

This has not effected the standard of teaching, as the school was recently rated outstanding in all areas by Ofsted, which introduced a more rigorous inspection framework in September.

But Ponteland Middle headteacher Caroline Pryer is concerned because the slashing of funds is holding it back from making an important appointment

She said: “We are loyal to the county authority and understand the plight of small schools, and we are working hard to stay within our means.

“But in recent years, there has been a rise in issues arising from social messaging and they are demanding attention from skilled staff to heal misdeeds and unhappiness.

“The £40,000 differential would pay for one specialised member of staff or two extra teaching assistants to release the staff already committed to a teaching timetable.

“It is frustrating, but we remain patient as hopefully the North East Schools Challenge funding initiative will come to fruition.”

Coun Robert Arckless, policy board member for children’s services at the county council, said: “Funding for all schools in Northumberland is calculated using a formula which has to comply with a whole series of national requirements.

“As a local authority we have to divide a very limited pot of money from government for all 170 schools in a fair and transparent way. This pot of money from the government has been shrinking over recent years.

“We’re completely open about the formula for schools in Northumberland and a budget share for each school is available on our website.”

Staff and the wider school community have put in a lot of effort to support various initiatives and earlier this month, Helen Smith and other teaching assistants organised a Night with the Stars ball at the Gosforth Marriott.

More than £6,000 was raised for the school’s all-weather artificial pitch project.

The 182 guests arrived to find a red carpet, drinks reception and function room dressed stunningly to represent the Oscars.

Mrs Pryer said: “It was a wonderful night and the organisers did a fantastic job.

“Jason Isaac crooned and entertained the guests with swing and big band sounds. The raffles were clever and extremely generous and Barclays provided match funding.

“In addition, dancers from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society premiered a dance specially written for the school’s outstanding Ofsted rating.”