AT LEAST 30 jobs are to be lost at Westlands School as senior management and governors try to plug a £500,000 funding shortfall.
Special educational support staff, meal time assistants and teaching support roles are among the posts under threat after letters were issued this week at the Torquay school.
Some £400,000 has already been saved at the school and the move has been in the pipeline since May when budget projections first emerged.
Head teacher Colin Kirkman said: "We face cuts not least of which is £300,000 of sixth form funding. We made internal savings of £400,000 in the past year and we have not been replacing staff. But we have to make these further savings."
He said that senior staff had already taken on dual roles and other vacant staff positions had not been replaced in a bid to save money. The school has 130 support staff alongside 90 teachers and the move will reduce the support staff to what Dr Kirkman said was an 'average' level.
He said: "The funding is for next year, but if we didn't do something this year, then the cuts would be deeper next year."
One person affected by the changes, who did not wish to be named, said: "This massive cull is going to damage the support and education of the children without question.
"For many teaching assistants, it is going to rip apart their close bond to the children they support many of whom have confided with their teaching assistants on issues not only at school, but also in their own private lives.
"How will they feel when they realise their trusted 'mentor' has been taken away due to cut backs? It is hard to put into words the relationship between some children and their teaching assistant, but needless to say lives are changed by the trust and communication between them, particularly when problems out of the school are part of this relationship."
Dr Kirkman said the £500,000 figure came from local education authority projections for the next financial year.
He said in some cases they were planning for a 'worst case' scenario, but even the best required massive savings.
Schools with academy status do not appear to be the in same situation, by the unique way they are directly funded and can juggle cuts better — leading to what Dr Kirkman described as a 'two tier system'. He said they had not ruled out becoming an academy in the future.
Staff under consultation at Westlands can feedback until Wednesday, November 2, when it will be down to the governors to asses the situation. Staff interviews will then take place at the request of the unions. "We will care for them as much as we can," Dr Kirkman said. "We have an open-door policy to talk to those affected and will help them get any advice they need."
Jane English, principal of Paignton Community and Sports College, said staff redundancies were possible at the school over the next few years as pupils numbers had dropped from 2,200 to 1,500."
Roy Pike, head teacher of Torquay Boys' Grammar School, which is an academy, said: "Some time ago the Government announced school sixth forms would lose some 10 per cent of their budget because of the recession but I have heard nothing definitive.
"The cut is expected in 2014, given that is election year I'm hoping things might improve."