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Cuts hit the disaffected

When pupils at Oakmead technology college say they are angry at the cut-backs, they mean it: most of their anger management classes have been cancelled.

The lessons were the among the first cut by the school in Bournemouth as it headed for a pound;80,000 shortfall this year and faced a pound;200,000 deficit in 2004.

Head Annetta Minard said that supporting disaffected students remained one of the college's top priorities. Nearly a third of its pupils have special educational needs and the majority live on a council estate where unemployment is high. The college has established a successful learning support centre and works closely with local youth offending teams.

However, Dr Minard said budgetary problems forced her to cut the anger management classes as well as other activities which the college's most challenging pupils had appreciated, including rock-climbing and trampolining.

"It made school enjoyable for the students," she said. "They and their parents are asking why these activities have been taken away. It is a great shame because we were managing very well. Our school is not in this position because of bad financial management."

Behaviour had not worsened since the cuts, said Dr Minard, but the school had not made the gains it had seen in previous years.

Oakmead's predicament is typical in Bournemouth, an authority which has received the lowest increase in education funding in England since 1997.

Others which face hardship include Bournemouth school which has a deficit of pound;150,000 and is threatening to make some year groups part-time.

Several other schools are considering sacking staff and increasing class sizes, including Avonbourne secondary which has already cancelled GCSE music.

The LEA will receive a transitional grant of pound;670,000 next year.

However, David Atkinson, Tory MP for Bournmouth East, said the grant would only cover the deficits of a few of the schools.

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