Headteacher of Newport Primary School says his school is ‘well placed to continue to provide outstanding education’ despite ‘challenging times’

A Barnstaple headteacher has waded into a by-election campaign to reassure parents over ‘alarming’ claims over school funding.

Newport Primary School’s Andy Cotton penned the letter to parents on Monday in response to a circular from North Devon Liberal Democrats.

The ‘Newport Focus’ leaflet, which promotes candidate Caroline Leaver, led with the headline ‘Newport schools in cash crisis’, prompting Mr Cotton to write to parents.

In his letter, he said that school funding continues to be ‘uneven’, but said the school was ‘well placed to continue to provide outstanding education’.

He added that claims the school would have to reduce staff levels were managed through ‘natural’ change.

Mr Cotton said: “I want to reassure parents who have read the Newport Focus article, that whilst I agree the approach to education funding is ill thought through, Newport Community Primary Academy has managed the changing financial landscape and is well placed to continue to provide outstanding education within the limitations imposed by central and local government.

“Crisis is caused by not effectively planning for the future and at Newport, the school has a healthy reserve because it has implemented a robust and coherent plan over time.”

Proposed changes to education have been much-maligned by teachers in North Devon over the last 12 months and the latest revision of a national funding formula for schools was met with mixed reaction when it was unveiled in September.

Mr Cotton admitted times were ‘challenging’ for all schools.

He said: “Leading a school over recent years has had its challenges and particularly in terms of funding.

“Despite promises to ensure schools are more equally funded through the National Funding Formula, the funding of schools across the country will continue to be uneven.

“With the pressures of rising national insurance, pension and staff costs, as well as inflation, it has been a challenging time for all schools.

“If the funding landscape changes, then regardless of what we may all think is appropriate, it is important to manage the situation.

The by-election for North Devon Council’s Newport ward takes place on Thursday, December 7.

Standing for election alongside Liberal Democrat Caroline Leaver are Martin Kennaugh (Conservative), Siobhan Strode (Labour) and Ricky Knight (Green).