A PRIMARY school could be forced to close early on Fridays in a bid to balance the books amid huge reductions in funding.

Epiphany Primary in Bournemouth is now being forced to operate with £250,000 per year less than five years ago, a cut of 20 per cent.

Head teacher Dave Simpson said early closing is just one of the proposals to save money.

And he said savage budget cuts have led to a fall in educational standards, a loss of valuable support staff and recruitment difficulties because he can no longer afford experienced teachers.

Mr Simpson said there has been a reduction in specialist music and PE teaching, the school leadership team has been cut from six to two and the school is now unable to subsidise trips, breakfast clubs or after school activities.

Now he has enlisted the help of Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood to urge the government to change its controversial funding formula.

And he has also called on Bournemouth council to tackle its overspend on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities without making up the shortfall from the general schools budget.

Epiphany, in Shillingstone Drive, has 420 pupils and a budget for the next academic year of £1.3 million.

Mr Simpson said: “I am finding it increasingly frustrating. It is difficult to maintain standards or improve standards with ever-increasing pressures.

“We have reduced Teaching Assistants. Children are not getting the same level of support so they are beginning to struggle.

“We used to get about 80 applications for every teaching job - now we get two or three.”

He said the possibility of closing early on a Friday has been discussed with governors and added: “It would have a huge impact on families but we are running out of fat to cut.”

Mr Simpson said the funding formula favours schools in inner city areas, where children are considered to be in greater need. “It needs to be looked at urgently. Our children are deemed to be less important than children in other parts of the country.”

'Funding per pupil is falling'

CAMPAIGNING against the school funding formula is gaining momentum as more and more head teachers across the country speak out about the tough choices they are facing.

Epiphany head Dave Simpson is the latest to add his voice, claiming both students and staff are suffering as a result of the cuts. Terry Fish, head of Twynham in Christchurch, recently revealed the difficulties faced by secondary schools. And he too is putting pressure on the government to change the formula.

Dr Fish said the government’s claims that more money is being spent on education are strictly true.

But he added: “What people are not being told is that there are so many more children in schools in this country that the funding per pupil has been going down for the last five years.”