BUDGET cuts at a Dorset first school saw three valued staff members leave their posts at the end of the school year.

In what was described as "a sad day for the school" three teaching assistants (TAs) with 72 years experience between them, took voluntary redundancy from their jobs at Hillside Community First School in Verwood.

Joyce Nicholls has worked mainly as a TA in the reception classes with Gill Thompson and Sally Christopher working as TAs and also as educational literacy support assistants across the school.

A final assembly was held, where pupils presented cards and gifts, followed by an after school tea party which was attended by past and present staff.

Yvonne Kemp, school publicity officer, said: "Due to the current climate of austerity the three ladies chose voluntary redundancy.

"Between them they have worked at the school for 72 years and their knowledge, empathy, hard work and senses of humour will be sadly missed by pupils, staff and parents alike.

"A sad day for the school. We wish them all the best of luck for the future."

Councillor Andrew Parry from Dorset County Council said: "Many schools are facing pressures on budgets due to funding not keeping pace with cost pressures.

"Hillside First School has taken proactive steps to reduce costs and ensure the school budget moves to a financially sustainable position."

Many schools in Dorset are struggling with rising costs and claim they need bigger budgets.

Last month Bournemouth's Stourfield Junior School, part of the Twynham Learning Trust, became the latest in a series of schools to switch to cold food, including Sylvan Infant School and Queen’s Park Infant Academy.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Emma Rawson said the switch was "due to budgetary constraints".

A year ago the Government agreed a £1.3 billion package of extra funding for schools over two years, which South Dorset MP Richard Drax said equated to a three per cent increase in basic funding to Dorset schoolchildren.

Headteachers were sceptical about whether the new funds would be enough to make a difference.

Last year the headteacher of Wimborne's Queen Elizabeth's School, Martin McLeman, said "disastrous" levels of government funding were responsible for a £300,000 shortfall in his budget.

"Each year we've had to reduce the amount of money available to departments to buy resources," he told the Echo.

"It is much more serious than just equipment and teaching materials – it is about having a qualified adult in front of the class."