A SCHOOL has scrapped its annual Christmas panto trip due to dwindling financial support from parents.

For the past three winters, pupils at St John the Evangelist CE Primary School in Carterton have enjoyed a whole-school visit to a pantomime in Chipping Norton.

But the school has revealed that last year’s trip ran at a loss of more than £600 due to a lack of voluntary payments from parents.

A school newsletter last week stated: “This shortfall had to be covered through the school budget, meaning this money could not be spent on staffing or vital resources.

"For this reason, we have had to make the hard decision not to visit the pantomime this year.

“Other trips ran at considerable loss so with regret we will have to reduce these additional and memorable opportunities this year.”

A travelling pantomime will visit the school instead, performing to reception and Years 1 and 2.

The letter said school budgets nationally are becoming ‘increasingly difficult to manage’, adding: “We are no exception and are finding it harder each year to provide things we would really like to.”

Headteacher Mark Smith admitted cutting the trip was a ‘hard decision’ but clarified that budget pressure was not the trigger.

He said the school is financially better off than many others due to rising pupil numbers and ‘inventive’ ways of generating income.

He added: “Our school budget is healthy but obviously every year presents new challenges.

“We’ve found in the last two years that we are receiving less in voluntary parental contributions.

“We have no issue at all in providing the core educational experience and actually provide a lot more than that.”

He said the dip in parental funding could be due to pupils being offered more enrichment opportunities than before, meaning more invitations for contributions.

Trips already plugged this term include those to the Youth Primary Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, and to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, with suggested voluntary contributions of £10.75 and £5 respectively.

Mr Smith added: “Financially everybody is feeling the squeeze.

“Over the last few years we have subsidised trips a lot, and this year we have said we can’t sustain this financially."

He said the school cannot use funds set aside for staff and resources, and also did not want pupils to feel singled out because their families can’t afford to pay.

Mr Smith, whose own children attend St John’s, added: “Every year hard decisions have to be made. You are constantly having to prioritise.”

He added: "On the whole parents were shocked by the level of shortfall.

“It’s a shame the children aren’t having that experience, but they understand that we can’t use core funding that could be used on staffing and resources.”

He said the school still offers a ‘huge amount’ of opportunities outside of the classroom, and he will consider bringing back the pantomime trip every other year.