Northants schools warn the cash will run out this year
More than half of local authority run schools in the North of county predict they will run out of money this financial year
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By Sarah Ward
A recent report from the local education authority in the North of the county points to a ‘storm brewing on the horizon’ with more than half of its 42 schools predicting they will end the financial year in deficit.
In the most recent financial year, three schools in the area ended up spending more than they had in the bank, but this year 19 primary schools, two nurseries and one secondary school are warning the cash they receive from the government will not last until it should and the prediction is these schools will rack up a collective deficit of close to £350,000.
The report does not include details of academy schools (which receive their funding directly from government and are not subject to the same rules or scrutiny as local authority run schools), which now make up the bulk of the schools in the county and West Northamptonshire’s local education authority has not as yet compiled a similar report.
The news comes as a survey from the National Association of Head Teachers union found that nine out of ten schools in England think they will run out of money next year.
And it comes amid a warning from the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt that education will not be exempt from the cuts coming to make up the £50bn deficit, in part made by former PM Liz Truss’s mini budget catastrophe.
The National Education Union has said any more cuts would alarm school heads as there is already a serious funding issue amid rising energy costs and unfunded pay awards.
The report which went before the North Northamptonshire Schools Forum recently says:
“With the increase in teachers' pay award in the summer and the steep rise of inflation, it is envisaged more schools will go further into deficit in 2022/23 as cost pressures mount on schools budgets.
“Appendix 1 highlights the storm that is currently brewing on the horizon for maintained schools. School governing bodies, Schools Forum and the LA need to work together to prepare for the difficult years ahead more so in the current difficult and challenging economic climate that schools have to operate within.”
The schools which have reported to the North local education authority that they will run short of cash are: Broughton Primary, Corby Old Village Primary School, Mawsley Community Primary School, South End Infant School, Park Junior School, South End Junior School, Higham Ferrers Infant School, The Avenue Infant School, Tennyson Road Infant School, Henry Chichele, Barton Seagrave County Primary, Denfield Park Primary, Earls Barton Primary, Meadowside Primary School, Croyland Primary, Wilby CE Primary, Stanion CE Primary, Millbrook Infant School, Wilby Primary School and Latimer Arts College. Maintained nurseries Croyland Early Year Centre and Pen Green Children’ Centre are also predicting a deficit.
And the situation gets worse in the years ahead with 27 of the 42 schools saying they will have a budget deficit by 2024/25, with Croyland Primary School predicting the biggest shortfall at £451,700.
Chair of the schools forum, Wollaston School head teacher James Birkett, did say that while the situation looks ‘catastrophic’ school finance departments did make forward budgets with assumptions that there would be no increase in income, but high increases in expenditure.
Head of Greenfield Primary Sandra Appleby said the forward picture looked ‘bleak’ and asked education authority finance officers how the picture compared to the west of the county and other groups of schools with a similar demographic.
“Should we be concerned,” she asked. “To look at these figures you think surely this is not viable. But how does it compare?”
Officer Salik Khan said a similar report was being prepared for the West of the county which would be shared.
Minutes of the June West Northamptonshire Schools Forum gives a snapshot into the financial situation earlier this year.
“It was recognised that small primary schools faced a more challenging position due to the tight financial envelope within which they operated.”
The West has five maintained nurseries, 65 primaries and three special maintained schools. In the most recent financial year to May one primary school ended the year in deficit.
At the North meeting the forum also voted to allow schools that had ended the previous year in surplus to keep all the surplus (rather than claw it back, as it can be done under government rules). However next year schools without uncommitted spend will have the extra funding taken back.