12 South Tyneside schools in the red as £1.9m deficit is revealed

Schools in South Tyneside are nearly �2m in the red
Schools in South Tyneside are nearly �2m in the red

A dozen schools in South Tyneside are nearly £2m in the red.

As of March 31 this year, three nurseries, seven primary schools and two secondary schools were facing a combined shotfall of £1.911m.

Hebburn Lakes headteacher Tony Watson

Hebburn Lakes headteacher Tony Watson

The borough’s Schools Forum heard the figures as part of the draft dedicated school grant balances for 2017/18 and efforts are now being made to boost an emergency pot of cash

A council report states that the shortfalls range from £1.236m to £0.003m - with work being done with schools on “deficit recovery plans” or to help schools apply for Schools Forum funding.

None of the schools are being named at this stage.

Councillor Moira Smith, lead member for children, young people and families at South Tyneside Council, said: “It is a matter of concern that increasing numbers of school are finding themselves in financial difficulties.

“However, we will continue to support our schools to meet our aspiration of giving all our children the best start in life.”

She added: “We have 64 schools who together have a surplus balance of £2.1m, with 52 schools being in a surplus position and 12 in deficit. The Local Authority is working with the schools in deficit to have plans in place to address the deficits.

Although the Forum’s‘ Financial Difficulty Fund has a £200,000 allocation for 2018/19, around £428,760 was paid out to struggling schools the previous year, a report stated.

It adds: “If we receive the same level of requests within 2018/19, we will be unable to support all of these.”

Chairman of the Forum and head teacher of Hebburn Lakes School, Tony Watson, praised the “herculean efforts” schools are making to tackle budget pressures but said the deficit was a “worry”.

He said that the £1.9m deficit was “unnaturally high” - with rising National Insurance, changes in tax contributions and “no extra funding coming through the door” having an impact.

With four applications already lodged for help with the financial difficulty fund this year - costing a potential £140k, a report states, the forum agreed to transfer funds from contingency balances.

Struggling schools applying to the fund in 2018/19 will be able to access a pot of £428,760.

The financial difficulty fund’s unspent closing balance for 2017/18 (£15,000) will also be carried over into 2018/19.

The details of the final audited outturn position, including individual school balances, will be brought to the next Schools Forum meeting in October.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service