By Aliki Kraterou
A hard-working head teacher has been hailed a hero by parents – after taking on dozens of jobs withing the school to keep it running when faced with government cuts.
Head Emily Proffitt not only teaches in the classroom, but also acts as the premises manager gardener and menu planner after scrapping a contract with outside caterers.
Tittensor C of E First School, near Trentham, Staffs, has been hit with £81,000 of cuts since 2015 – meaning they have been forced to cut staff an resources for children.
But Mrs Proffitt, 37, has been determined to save as much money as possible – and has spent her school holidays building a cloakroom, fixing the children’s pond, and even roping in her dad to help tile parts of the school.
She has scrapped the school’s caterers and now the school plans and sources all school meals as she is arranging deals with local suppliers to be able to create cheap nutritious school meals, saving the school more than £9,000.
The school has 93 pupils at the moment and three teachers.
Emily said: “It’s a very small school, there is no leadership team, there is a site supervisor who opens and closes the school but there is no one else to do any of the maintenance work.
“The reason behind that there is not enough money in the budget to cover that.
“Obviously it quickly became apparent that any major jobs that needed to be done, we would have to get external people in and pay for these jobs.
“Over the last three years I’ve been here, I have noticed major reductions in our budget, we had to make some drastic changes to staff, we’ve lost TAs, we’ve reduced hours of staff.
“When I first started, we’d have money in surplus which would carry over to the next year and then the surplus continues – the current budget picture is that we don’t have any surplus at all.
“Even though the government put little extras into the capital fund this year, it wasn’t enough.
“Lots of schools across the country are suffering because of the reductions in their budget which means that buildings are falling into disrepair, paintings not being done, things aren’t being maintained and therefore buildings and structures have become very difficult to manage.
“Because we don’t have the support within our structure for staff, those sorts of jobs need to be taken on in house so quite regularly we have to review areas of the school that need upgrading. “
In the summer holidays of 2016, Emily took on her first project and revamped the staff room with the help of her dad.
She added: “It was very dilapidated, the paint work was very shabby, the chairs were all old, the tiles and kitchen equipment were predated to 1970s and the taps were leaking.
“I sourced kitchen units and tiles from Wicks, as cheap as possible and spent two weeks of my holiday renovating the staff room with my dad.
“It’s a shame I couldn’t get someone to do it for us but there was not enough money in the budget to pay for a tradesman to come and do a job like that. “
Almost a year ago Emily took the risky decision of becoming the school’s catering manager, after seeing a big part of the budget being spent on poor service and quality, reduced portions and issues with deliveries.
The pupils even helped on designing the new menus and chose their favourite meals.
Emily added: “I was looking at the budget and realised we were spending £7000 on a service we weren’t happy with, weren’t getting good quality and our children deserved better.
“We took the radical decision to do the catering in-house- initially it was a lot of hard work , a lot of research around the school’s standards, allergen testing, health and safety and all the paperwork that goes behind it.
“We designed our own menu with the children, we sourced local products , we used the local butcher, the local catering company to provide some of the food- the quality has improved, the children have a good hearty meal every day, it’s made sure to cover everything that they need.
“We asked the children what their favourite meals were – obviously we can’t have pizza and fish and chips every day, it needs to have nutritional balance – but we now have a varied menu that the children love.”
She saves a further £2000 every year by taking on the school’s gardening – and roping in a team of parent volunteers.
They take on an array of odd jobs – weeding and planting, construction jobs, such as building a log cabin.
New furniture, a reformed cloakroom and other small projects have been carried out as well as fixing the school pond that was leaking.
Emily added:“It was dangerous for the children to use it- in order to renovate that I couldn’t afford for a groundsman because of funding so again my dad came and helped me to do it.
“Now they do pond dipping and they can use it for resources we’ve got on site effectively.
“We do rely heavily on volunteers- parents and local community, we’ re very lucky to have their support.
“To save money in the construction, the parents are coming in, as a building weekend that saved us £1000.
“Members of the community who used to be teachers support in class and help out taking teaching assistant roles.
“My mum does the administration jobs and my dad comes in and does some handyman jobs as well.
“If we hadn’t done the job ourselves, we’d have lost thousands of pounds in order to maintain our school, the standards and the environment our children deserve.
“Our special educational needs children wouldn’t have the TA and the classrooms to support them, the teachers would have an increased workload because of not having the support from teaching assistants.
“We are actually now making a profit which comes back into our school so we can provide even more for our children.
The school has already started their own garden projects, where the children are growing their own fruits vegetable and herbs- which will be used in the kitchen for their meals.
Laura Adams, mum of Annabella, 8, Elija, 5 and Amber, 2 said she is very happy with the job Emily is doing and that everyone in their community is very supportive.
Laura said: ”I think it’s excellent, she is raising awareness and it’s a benefit for everything.
“She’s definitely our superhero, very inspirational to us all and the children love her.
“They do all sorts of practical activities and they are able to see the outcome of what they are doing, for example with the garden.”