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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Parents asked to help cash-strapped school
Lessons are being cut at Beacon School because of a funding crisis
A head teacher has suggested that parents give up to 300 each to cut his school's 300,000 budget deficit.

John Darker told families of pupils at Beacon School in Banstead, Surrey, this would "solve the problem immediately".

The money shortage had already led to larger classes and a reduction in the amount of GCSE courses on offer, he added.

Mr Darker told News Online: "The school has had to lose nine teachers and a teaching assistant.

'Doing all we can'

"We have also had to had to cut music, drama and technology teaching.

"We are doing all we can to ensure adequate funding. The parents, I'm sure, will be very supportive of what we are doing."

Mr Darker is already sending his 1,350 pupils home 50 minutes early - at 2.25pm - on Friday, to save the equivalent of the cost of two teachers.

Head teacher John Darker
We have had to reduce the scope of our provision, which is not something we like doing
John Darker, head teacher

He said losses of grants worth 210,000 had created a "hole" in his 4m annual budget.

Mr Darker said 10 a month would be a reasonable donation from most parents, with some giving as much as 300 over time.

But one, salesman Ray McCarthy, said he would not pay on principle, describing the situation Beacon School found itself in as "obscene".

However, Mr Darker added: "This is the first time the school has asked for any money from parents for about four years, so the impact is being felt more keenly.

"We have had to reduce the scope of our provision, which is not something we like doing."

Mr Darker hopes to reduce the school's budget deficit to 200,000 by the end of this year.

Despite an increase in government funding of 2.7bn this year, schools have reported shortfalls of up to 500,000.

They have been asked to pay out more on wages, National Insurance and pension contributions.

On top of this, the government and local authorities have become involved in a row over the whereabouts of a "missing" 500m which head teachers have not received.

A Surrey County Council spokesman said: "Surrey Local Education Authority understands completely the devastating impact on its schools of the government's new funding arrangements.

"This would have been far greater had Surrey County Council not provided 3m more than the target amount set by the secretary of state for education.

"John Darker is a skilled head teacher running a good school and it is wholly regrettable that he, like head teachers up and down the country, is being forced by the government's funding position to consider such drastic measures."

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