Concerns over education funding as South Tyneside schools end year in deficit

School students carrying their bags and books. Picture by PA Wire/PA Images
School students carrying their bags and books. Picture by PA Wire/PA Images

Nearly half of the state-run secondary schools in South Tyneside are spending more than they receive in funding, new figures reveal.

Department for Education data shows two of the five local authority-run secondary schools in South Tyneside finished the last financial year in deficit.

In 2012-13, none of the schools controlled by South Tyneside Council finished the year with a deficit.

Around 76% of all schools in South Tyneside finished the year with a budget surplus - but the proportion of schools operating with a surplus has fallen from 2012-13, when it was 86%.

One teachers’ union said the ‘astonishing’ number of English schools that have fallen into deficit - more than 1,500 nationwide – is the result of “deliberate underfunding”.

Schools in deficit overspent by £2m during the year to March.

Coun Moira Smith, lead member for children, young people and families at South Tyneside Council, said: “It is concerning that increasing numbers of schools nationally and regionally are finding themselves in financial difficulties.

“We work closely with any school with a deficit position to address their financial situation and will continue to support all of our schools to meet our aspiration of giving all of our young people the best start in life.”

Nationally, more than 30% of secondary schools are now spending more than their budget - up from 13% five years ago.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary at the National Education Union, said: “Children and young people get one chance at education.

“It must not be ruined by short-sighted policy.

“This debt is being incurred despite schools taking desperate measure to balance the books such as making thousands of teachers and teaching assistants redundant, increasing class sizes, cutting subject choices, and leaving essential building repairs undone.

“Yet still the Government does nothing about the woeful lack of funding given to our schools and colleges.”

Jon Andrews, director for school system and performance at the think tank Education Policy Institute, said councils could help “ease pressure” on schools by recirculating some of the funds that others haven’t used.

The Department for Education said they were giving more money to schools, and had allocated the biggest increases to the schools that have been most underfunded.

A spokeswoman said: “However, we know that we are asking schools to do more, which is why the Education Secretary has set out his determination to work with the sector to help schools reduce the £10billion they spend on non-staffing costs and ensure every pound is spent as effectively as possible to give children a great education.”