'Cruel' cut hits neediest Norfolk children
Steve DownesNorfolk's neediest youngsters could miss out on lifeline support because of a �1.9m cut in funding to more than one-third of the county's schools, many in the most deprived areas.Steve Downes
Norfolk's neediest youngsters could miss out on lifeline support because of a �1.9m cut in funding to more than one-third of the county's schools, many in the most deprived areas.
The county council is set to slice the sum out of the grants it makes to schools to help them boost results among vulnerable children.
In all 167 schools will get less money than they were promised - with cuts ranging from a few hundred pounds to almost �93,000 for the biggest loser, Great Yarmouth High.
The move was branded 'cruel and short-sighted' by county councillor Bert Bremner, while one headteacher said there was a 'political' edge to the decision.
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But Shelagh Hutson, cabinet member for children's services, said reduced government funding left the council with 'no choice'.
The council was set to divvy up �7.1m of social deprivation funding between schools, with those in the most challenging areas getting the most.
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Now the sum has been cut to �5.2m, leaving schools that had already budgeted for the promised cash with some tough choices to make.
Tim Lawes is head of Catton Grove Primary in Norwich, which was promised �184,201 in 2010/11 but will now get �130,636.
He said: 'This money goes to the county council, but the government does not insist that it is ring-fenced for social deprivation. Unfortunately, that means it is subject to political processes.
'It has a big impact on school like us, Mile Cross Primary and Larkman Primary, which are in significantly challenging communities. It makes a big difference to what we can do to help our children and our communities. Ultimately, the reduction means we would have fewer staff to help these children.'
Karen Topping, head of Sewell Park College in Norwich, said the county council had not informed the school about its cut from �308,262 to �219,816.
She said: 'We use this money to provide essential support to the most vulnerable of our students. We have a nurture group. Without that group, we probably wouldn't be able to get some of these youngsters into school.'
Mr Bremner, a Labour county councillor, said: 'Tory county councillors do not want to help socially deprived youngsters, so they cut the money. How cruel and short sighted is that?'
He said parts of Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn, Thetford and Norwich were the hardest hit, and added: 'I am certain that the people of Norfolk would want any cuts to be spread evenly across the board and will object to the poorest and most socially deprived youngsters having to subsidise the well-off and wealthy.'
The same thing occurred last year, when the county council decided to withdraw a proposed �1.5m boost to the social deprivation fund.
Mrs Hutson said the schools budget was �3.5m lower than anticipated because there were fewer pupils than the government predicted.
She said: 'This, combined with pressures on the budget brought about by increased special educational needs costs, the costs of funding out of county placements for some of the most vulnerable children, and support to schools that have got into financial difficulty means we have had to make some tough decisions when planning the schools budget for next year.'
She said an additional �419,000 was set aside for specialist resource bases for children with special educational needs, plus a further �500,000 for alternative education provision to help children who needed support with their learning.
Mrs Hutson added that schools in areas of social deprivation would still be getting �4.9m in specific funding, with an additional �252,000. But she added: 'We have had no choice but to make the difficult decision not to provide the uplift in funding - that funding is no longer available.'
t To give your views on the cuts, call Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.