Education being 'ripped away' from Exmouth's most vulnerable children, says head teacher

PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 March 2018

Santina Taylor and her son Dylan. Ref exe 07-18TI 7736. Picture: Terry Ife

Santina Taylor and her son Dylan. Ref exe 07-18TI 7736. Picture: Terry Ife

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The parents of children with special educational needs in Exmouth are backing the county's campaign for fair funding in schools as head teachers renew warnings of potential staffing cuts.

Santina Taylor and her son Dylan. Ref exe 07-18TI 7732. Picture: Terry IfeSantina Taylor and her son Dylan. Ref exe 07-18TI 7732. Picture: Terry Ife

In January, head teachers in Exmouth told the Journal there was ‘simply not enough money’ coming to Devon’s schools after it was revealed the they would receive £268-per-pupil short of the national average under the government’s new funding formula.

Since then the Worth Less? campaign group, representing Devon’s schools, has ‘invoiced’ Chancellor Philip Hammond for ‘monies owed’ to pupils and families and written a letter informing parents and carers about the issue.

And now, Exeter Road Primary School’s head Paul Gosling has reiterated concerns that without more money schools may have to cut teaching assistants.

Jeni Chown and her son Ollie. Picture by Jeni Chown.Jeni Chown and her son Ollie. Picture by Jeni Chown.

He said: “As always, the people who are going to be affected most are those who are most vulnerable. Most of these children are trying to catch up, but without support they drop further and further behind.

“Education is what gives people the ability to choose what they want to get out of life and this is being ripped away.”

Exmouth mum Santina Taylor’s six year-old son Dylan has autism, ADHD and relies on continuous one-to-one support throughout the school day.

Santina is worried what it would mean for Dylan if there was any reduction in teaching assistant support.

She said: “If it happens, they would not let him into school and it would set him back a lot.

“He’s made relationships with teaching assistants and pupils. It would be detrimental to his mental health. It’s not fair on children who have teaching assistants; they still need to learn as much as the other children.”

Seven year-old Ollie Chown, from Exmouth, relies on support for a range of additional needs and his mum, Jeni, said any disruption could severely set him back.

She said: “Consistency is key for children with additional needs. If there are more cuts and teaching assistants have to leave, it does make me worried about where this leaves Ollie.”

As the county’s representative for the National association of Head Teachers, Mr Gosling said unions had reported 100–150 teaching assistant redundancies in Devon over the past year.

Furthermore, a reserve of un-spent funds for Devon’s schools, which stood at £21 million at the end of financial year 2015/16, was down to just £15 million at the end of 2016/17.

“One more year of some schools living on this reserve and then we are really in danger of having to cut staffing,” said Mr Gosling.

But in a statement previously provided to the Journal, the Department for Education (DfE) said it was ‘investing an additional £1.3 billion in schools funding’ and that Devon would receive an additional £13.2 million for schools.

It also said the national funding formula ‘distributes funding based on individual needs and characteristics of every school’.

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