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Felled by pupil-based formula

A Warwickshire school fears it will end the new financial year with an Pounds 80,000 deficit, despite shedding 13 teaching posts and making other swingeing economies.

Nicholas Chamberlaine School, the largest comprehensive in the county with more than 1,200 pupils, will have its budget cut by 5 per cent - or Pounds 125,000 - because of Government restrictions on spending.

But the financial difficulties at the school are being compounded by the pupil-based funding formula. Currently there are 300 Year 11 pupils each bringing in Pounds 1,800 a year, but in September the new intake of fewer than 200 Year 8 pupils will be each worth in the region of Pounds 1,300, a further loss of Pounds 60,000. In addition the school has had to carry over a Pounds 30,000 deficit incurred, it says, because the county council did not fund the shortfall in last year's teachers' pay award.

Headteacher Kevin Scott said: "The school is being hit by difficulties which are completely outside of its control. There is nothing we can do about demographic changes. Despite our difficulties the governors have decided to set a balanced budget for next year. But making up the shortfall may prove to be a tall order."

In addition, governors have decided to cut capitation to about Pounds 70 per pupil, a decrease of 20 per cent, despite facing an Office for Standards in Education inspection in May and the prospect of being criticised for spending Pounds 30 less per pupil than the recommended levels.

Spending on buildings and maintenance is being limited to Pounds 15,000, and one full-time support teacher will be added to the list of job cuts. The teacher-pupil ratio will increase from 1:16 to 1:19.

Mr Scott added: "We have made a bid to Warwickshire County Council for some money from the contingency fund and we have been allocated Pounds 17,000, but this will not go far. The tragedy of all this is that some of the staff we will lose are precisely the kind of people any school would wish to keep. They are highly experienced and dedicated teachers, but we have to look at it from the perspective that we are fortunate they have volunteered for early retirement because this will save us from making compulsory redundancies."

Education chiefs have suggested the school borrows the balance needed to end the year in the black, but the governors have abandoned the idea amid fears they would not be able to meet repayments and interest charges.

The irony for Nicholas Chamberlaine, and other Warwickshire schools, is that the county's schools reorganisation programme, which becomes effective in September 1996, will result in a cohort of Year 7 pupils being admitted to the school for the first time.

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