Talks begin to help tourist hotspot school hit by housing crisis

School 'struggling to make books balance' as families 'displaced' from beauty spot

School 'struggling to make books balance' as families 'displaced' from beauty spot

14 Jan 2024, 5:00

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An academy trust is in talks to secure extra cash for a secondary school in a Cornish beauty spot where tourists have “displaced” families.

Truro and Penwith Academy Trust has launched “special case” funding discussions with the Department for Education to boost Cape Cornwall School’s viability, after it racked up a £332,000 deficit last year. 

CEO Dr Jenny Blunden said the academy, the only secondary in St Just, needs “a longer-term, more sustainable [arrangement]… it can’t be a one-year quick fix”.

‘School needs long-term solution’

“When you have families that are displaced out of the area, it’s really hard for children to travel back into Cape Cornwall or any of the primary schools.

Dr Jenny Blunden

“[With] the increased costs of overheads… the cost of staff has gone up and the increased cost of utilities, we’re just struggling to make the books balance with ever declining numbers.”

Blunden added that similar pressures are being felt in two more trust academies in Cornish villages Pendeen and Sennen. The trust runs 34 schools in Cornwall.

Elsewhere, town councillors in Southwold, East Suffolk, warned two years ago that the proliferation of holiday lets in the area could leave its only primary “highly under-utilised and at risk of being financially unsustainable”.

Consortium Trust CEO Andrew Aalders-Dunthorne, whose chain is responsible for Southwold Primary, said: “There is no doubt that the amount of second homes … restrict the number of families and, therefore, local children.”

Union calls for ‘better system of financial support’

He has “taken a number of measures that have reduced overheads and costs”, while “maintaining a four-class structure … that provides a quality education”.

In Whitby, MP Sir Robert Goodwill, a former children’s minister, believes the problem – along with a growing pensioner population – has contributed to pupil number drops in the area as well. One of the town’s secondaries, Eskdale School, is set to merge with nearby Caedmon College amid child and cash shortages.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders union, said: “There needs to be a much better system of financial support available for schools with falling rolls, either as a result of general demographic changes or specific local issues.”

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