School’s pledge tree helps with cash crisis

Some of the children with chair of governors Bob Clark, headteacher Marion West, Sir Nicholas Soames MP and parent Helen Grove
Some of the children with chair of governors Bob Clark, headteacher Marion West, Sir Nicholas Soames MP and parent Helen Grove

A school has come up with a new way to fight its funding problems – by launching a pledge tree.

Parents and friends of Warninglid Primary pledged to provide everything from books and pens to an electric microscope and a mini iPad, after the tree was unveiled at the school’s summer fayre.

Among the pledge came one from Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames, who said he would send the school a selection of books and writing implements.

Schools in low-funded West Sussex have long struggled to make ends meet, being forced to make cuts to staff, equipment and the curriculum in an attempt to balance their budgets.

Bob Clark, Warninglid’s chairman of governors said the school had made “difficult choices”.

These included not replacing two part-time teachers and reducing the hours worked by teaching assistants.

As a result, more pressure was placed on class teachers, while headteacher Marion West had to take on a teaching role, run the school’s morning club, cover much of the supply needs at Warninglid and cover the lunchtime break.

Mr Clark said: “Government budget cuts mean that Warninglid Primary must work on a budget of less than £30k compared to last year.”

As well as enduring budget cuts, the school has seen its pupil numbers fall – a fact Mr Clark said was primarily down to its rural location.

When asked how long the pledge tree would remain at her school, Mrs West said: “It is here to stay until funding in West Sussex is equitable to other parts of the country.

“As long as we remain one of the worst funded counties in the UK budgets will continue to suffer.”

She added: “I would like to thank those who have pledged as they are making a difference to the children’s education. By funding these items we have freed up money to support the children in other ways at school such as maintaining our provision for specialist support in music and French within the school.”

Sir Nicholas said: “I was delighted to visit Warninglid Primary, which is an excellent school with a first class headteacher. The school is making the very best of itself despite falling rolls and, under the leadership of the chairman of the governors, it is undertaking vigorous marketing.”

He added: “I continue to support all the schools in my constituency as do all the other West Sussex Members of Parliament.”