Pakefield High School funding controversy

Headteacher Perry Linsley.

Headteacher Perry Linsley.

Archant © 2012

Hundreds of students at Lowestoft’s newest high school will be forced to pay the price as it struggles to deal with a funding shortfall, its headteacher claimed this week.

Pakefield High School factfile

Pakefield High opened in September 2011 on the site of the former Pakefield Middle School.

Phase one of the construction project included a suite of six science laboratories and classrooms, six technology rooms, music and arts suites, a dance and performance hall, a main hall, and a learning resource centre.

Phase two will be officially unveiled in September and will provide the school with a new entrance area, a reception and administration suite, 15 classrooms for communications, maths and engineering classes, and staff facilities.

Phase three of the project is due to start in the autumn.

Once completed will the school with provide a new sports hall and classrooms for the humanities and inclusion faculties.

Perry Linsley, headteacher of Pakefield High, said a lack of funding for equipment and fittings would lead to it having fewer teachers, bigger classes and more limited options for its students.

Mr Linsley’s voiced his fears as work continues on a new teaching block at the school, which is due to increase its roll to more than 900 students in September. The development is the latest phase of the £24m project to build Pakefield High – the first high school constructed in Suffolk in 25 years.

However, Suffolk County Council says it is satisfied the school has received adequate levels of funding, although a meeting is due to be held next month to discuss the situation.

In a strongly-worded statement, Mr Linsley and Pakefield High School’s chairman of governors Dave Foster said: “The school has been offered a grant of £77,000 to buy furniture and equipment.

“We are very grateful for the outside of the school, but the school needs furniture, equipment and resources for the inside. £77,000 is only a quarter of what we need to do the job. We are concerned that this wholly inadequate fund is going to have a negative impact on teaching and learning.

“The IT infrastructure for phase two of the new build alone, with servers, switch gear and computers, comes to more than £100,000 and the school is expected to find funds from its own budget to pay for tables, chairs, cupboards, projectors and boards.

“We will then have to find further money to equip a whole new sports hall and new classrooms when phase three is complete.

“If the school has to fund furniture and equipment from its own budget it will have to divert these funds from their intended purpose, that is teaching and learning.

“If the school does not receive adequate funding, it will have no option but to take money given to the school intended to pay for all aspects of students’ education.

“This will lead to fewer teachers, bigger classes and reduced options at key stage four.

“It is clear that this is in direct contrast to the council’s stated aim of building a world class education system for Suffolk”.

Mr Linsley has also written to Lisa Chambers, the county council’s portfolio holder for education, asking her to step in.

His letter to her says: “The governors and I would like to appeal to you to intervene in this situation and bring some common sense to the resolution of our problem.

“After all, no one would consider building a new hospital and not funding beds, medical equipment and medication.”

The school’s financial shortfall has also been taken up by Sonia Barker, county and district councillor for Pakefield.

She has raised the issue at the county council and is due to meet Mrs Chambers on August 5.

Mrs Barker said: “I’m really concerned about what Mr Linsley says. The council seems to be failing to supply the school with what it needs.

“I will continue to fight on the school’s and its students’s behalf. The school can only purchase the necessary furniture and equipment by using money intended for teaching and learning.

Mrs Barker said that the funding gap also flew in the face of the county council’s Raising the Bar initiative to drive up exam results in Suffolk. She added: “It is more like limboing under the bar in my view.”

In a statement, Mrs Chambers said: “Suffolk County Council has spent more than £20m on Pakefield High School to build a high quality facility for the 900 children who will be on roll. Major items of fixed equipment are covered by this capital spend.

“For smaller items of furniture and equipment, the school is responsible for meeting these costs. The local authority has provided funding towards this under the growth policy agreed with representatives of schools, such as head teachers and governors, at the Schools Forum.

“Indeed, this policy has recently been revised to give additional funding for new start up schools such as Pakefield. Local authority officers have been working closely with the school throughout this process, and are providing ongoing support with their financial planning.

“It is, however, up to the school governing body to prioritise the money they have and decide what is the appropriate level of spend on equipping the school.”

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