Jobs lost as school hit by low numbers
A RECORD low number of children approaching secondary school age in Torbay has resulted in one school having to make two compulsory redundancies in order to balance its books.
St Cuthbert Mayne joint Catholic and Church of England School last year filled 175 places of its 195 capacity but after this year's intake, it has been left with 70 unfilled places.
Headteacher Cathy Gilfillan said: "The drop in pupils was greater than we expected it to be. Subsequently there has been a drop in funding which, while not a crisis issue, is certainly quite a concern."
Funding for secondary schools is allocated according to the number of actual pupils in education, rather than the number of places offered by the school.
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Ms Gilfillan added: "We had been expecting a drop in the number of pupils as we witnessed it working its way through the primary schools.
"But that is part of the package of running a school.
"We had half a year's notice from when the pupils' preferences were released by the council of the actual number of pupils we would be getting.
"There really isn't anything you can do about it. It's simply the result of demographic changes.
"While the school once was at this size before, its maximum capacity has since been increased making this the lowest intake for 10 years."
Ms Gilfillan said: "Part of the problem, I suspect, is to do with the grammar schools.
"Even when there are fewer children approaching secondary school age the grammar schools will still fill their places, which has a knock-on effect on other schools by taking pupils away from them.
"It's just how the system works, they are not acting unfairly. It's the consequences of a selective system.
"As a result, this year we have a reduced number of classes, which has lowered our staffing requirements.
"We had some natural wastage that normally we would have replaced, but in these circumstances did not.
"We also had two compulsory redundancies."
Torquay Boys' Grammar School has filled its 150 pupil capacity, and had to find space for two further students, as Mr Pike, headteacher, explained: "We take the first 150 pupils, with the cut-off point defined by the mark of the 150th child.
"In this instance there will have been more than one pupil with the same score, hence the 152.
"I never doubted that we wouldn't be full, being one of the top 20 boys' grammar schools in the country."
The record low number of children approaching secondary school age has been attributed to a post-millennium lull in births.
A Torbay Council spokesman said: "There are fewer children in secondary schools because fewer children of secondary school age applied for places in Torbay. This is mainly due to the fact that the birth rate fell in 2001."
As the secondary school with the largest capacity of 300 places, Paignton Community and Sports College has almost a third of its places unfilled after the 2012 intake.
Headteacher Jane English said: "We have encountered a demographic blip. But we knew this was coming."