School head considers cutting costs by closing early on Fridays

THE headteacher of a cash-strapped primary school in Mirfield says he is ‘exploring various options’ on how to cut costs as budgets are squeezed – including closing early on Fridays.

Andy Blakeley explains in a newsletter to parents of Hopton Primary School pupils about the struggles he is facing after revealing “the allocation of money to the school falls short of the costs for the coming year”.

Despite making more than £150,000 in cuts over the past few years – including losing a teacher and teaching a combination of five classes himself – there still isn’t enough funding for the school because of reduced grants from the government.

Mr Blakeley said it was “clear that we will need to make changes to how the school is run”.

Speaking to The Press, Mr Blakeley said: “Funding is my number one priority and we’ll have to make incredibly difficult decisions which will unfortunately have a negative effect on the children.”

One of the options being considered is to close the school on Friday afternoons, although he stressed that the idea isn’t set in stone.

He said: “If it was possible we would explore it further, if not we would explore the next idea. I would involve parents as much as possible. Parents would be given the opportunity to keep children in school, they wouldn’t just be sent home, it would just be a different Friday afternoon perhaps, with non-curricular lessons. 

“We want to save money in a way that doesn’t affect parents.”

Some of the cost-cutting ideas highlighted in Mr Blakeley’s newsletter include changes to nursery and starting an after-school care club, ideas which he described as “drastic but reflect the real financial difficulties we are facing”.

He said: “Until the day I cease to be your headteacher I will fight for your children’s education. All that I ask of you is to continue supporting the school in the way that the vast majority of you do, and no matter how daft an idea is, give it your consideration.

“I must admit each Friday afternoon when I take 120 children into the hall, I think it is a daft idea! However, each week it saves about £600 for the school.”

Hopton isn’t the only primary school in the district facing problems, with others struggling to make ends meet and some even relying on parent donations and fundraising to keep afloat.

Mr Blakeley blamed the lack of support from the government: “We are certainly not the only school to be facing these challenges, which I feel brings shame to the politicians who make decisions on funding and answer real concerns with glib soundbites.”

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff is working on setting up a meeting with schools minister Nick Gibb to talk to him about school cuts.

She said: “The minister says the government are spending record amounts on our schools but their ‘little extras’ won’t fool parents and teachers who can see that school budgets are at breaking point.”

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