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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

South Cumbria schools struggling with budget deficits

FIFTEEN schools in Barrow and South Lakes are struggling with budget deficits – and have called for more help as they look to balance the books.

Five recommendations will be considered at a Cumbria County Council meeting today in order to help schools that fall into the red.

A review into supporting schools with budget difficulties was commissioned last year after an increase in the amount of schools facing budget deficits, some of which have failed to break even for several years.

The county council has revealed that in Cumbria 99 schools were in deficit in 2011/12, with 15 of those in Barrow, Dalton and South Lakes.

As part of the review, members of a task group visited two Barrow schools – Roose Primary School and Barrow Island Community Primary School – that said they had not received any support.

Roose School had a deficit of £40,000 in March, however is expected to be in a surplus position of £65,000 by the start of the new financial year.

In a visit to Roose,headteacher Wendy Jacobs told the task group that she had received no direct contact from children’s services and that governors had been offered no training in connection with the deficit.

A report for the council’s cabinet said: “The school relied heavily for support and advice on a bursar service bought in from Capita and which provided schools with their own nominated support officer.

“The head spoke very highly of the service and support provided by the individual concerned.

“The head could not recall being offered any specific contact from children’s services in relation to the school being in a budget deficit situation apart from a letter accepting the schools proposed action plan to get out of the deficit.”

The task group also visited Barrow Island, which although in surplus of £62,000 in March 2011 is expected to be in deficit by March of next year. Headteacher Janet Dixon also said she had received little contact from the council but that school is confident it will not have a significant decrease come March.

The report said: “She advised that schools are only allowed to carry forward an eight per cent surplus with anything above that being returned to the county council. The school had brought forward some areas of spend associated with works on the school but were already aware that they faced a budget shortfall mainly due to a falling roll in the forthcoming year.”

The council has said that it had visited 40 out of the 99 schools that were in deficit in 2011/12 and that support is already available to schools.

However the task group has recommended that all schools are advised of this support, that improvements are made to language and speech therapy support, that a survey is carried out in six months to see if schools understand the support available to them, that additional funding for schools in deprived areas be revised and that mandatory training be offered to schools heading into deficit.

Have your say

So that's another dip into the ever emptying taxpayers pockets then.
Other than cutting back on staff, equipment, staffing levels, or god forbid lowering the schools wage bill what other option is there?

Posted by Tony on 8 November 2012 at 19:15

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