Harpenden head says schools facing sixth form funding crisis
RELIANCE on parents for funding new sixth form facilities at a successful Harpenden school is a taste of what is to come, according to its concerned headteacher.
Norman Hoare, head of St George’s in Sun Lane, said this week that it was only as a result of the hard work and generosity of parents that new sixth form study facilities had been able to be provided at the school.
And he warned that with no funding from local or national government to help pay for sixth form provision, all good secondary schools would find themselves in a similar predicament.
Leaders of the school’s parent-staff association saw for themselves the pressure that huge sixth form numbers were creating at St George’s when they joined students on the first day of use of the new study facilities.
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Since June parents, led by development director Pam Bainbridge, have raised �77,000 to refit the sixth form area with 90 study spaces, 55 new computers and a redesigned and larger cafe. An additional �38,000 was also provided to relocate the music department and equip it with Apple Mac computers and a new recording studio.
St George’s is a voluntary aided school with its own foundation which owns the buildings and is a registered charity.
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Mr Hoare said: “It is frustrating that having warned that the increase in pupil numbers lower down the school over the last five years would have a significant impact on entry to our already-overscribed sixth form, no-one was prepared to listen and indeed turned a blind eye to our arguments.
“We have had to raise all the money ourselves with our foundation doing the building work for the two-part project and our summer gifting appeal bringing in enough cash to fit out not only the sixth form area but the new music centre.
“This is, I regret to have to say once again, a taste of what is to come. There will be very little available to help any schools to meet the unprecedented demand for additional school places especially at the senior end.”
Mr Hoare pointed out that the explosion in demand for primary places in the county would lead to a bulge in the 11-18 schools yet warnings from governing bodies for some years about the consequences of expansion at the secondary transfer stage had fallen on deaf ears.
And he criticised the last government’s decision to make education to 17 compulsory and not thinking through the financial needs of such a policy.
He added: “Whilst the foundation’s work and parents’ support has been invaluable, we have not really cracked the real problem at St George’s.
“The school remains short of specialist accommodation and such basic provision as a decent size dining room and wider corridors to let the 1,300 pupils move around quickly and safely.”
Mrs Bainbridge also thanked parents for their generosity through the summer gifting campaign.
She said: “Parents understood we were desperate and have continued to support us with cash donations and pledges, most of which attracts Gift Aid and have swelled the coffers.”