Schools: Deficit Recovery (Melanie Ellis)
Melanie Ellis introduced the report (Agenda Item 10), which reported on the outturn position of the nine schools that had set a deficit budget in 2018/19 and provided an update on the work that had been carried out to support these schools.
Melanie Ellis reported that nine schools had a licensed Main School Budget deficit in 2018/19 totally £870k. At period nine, the forecast deficit for these nine schools was £640k and the final outturn position was a closing deficit balance of £212k.
Section 6.1 of the report detailed that three schools had ended the financial year with an unlicensed deficit however, each of the three schools had submitted a balanced budget for 2019/20.
Ian Pearson stated that schools needed to be congratulated for their hard work to balance budgets. Headteachers and Governing Bodies had been required to make difficult decisions. Ian Pearson reported that West Berkshire Council remained committed to helping schools and to early intervention.
Councillor Dominic Boeck commended the hard work that had been undertaken by schools. Councillor Boeck referred to the three schools with unlicensed deficits that would submit balanced budgets for 2019/20. He asked if these schools would continue to be supported despite submitting balanced budgets. Melanie Ellis confirmed that the Schools’ Finance Team would continue to provide support to these schools as they were currently in deficit.
David Ramsden asked if support was being escalated for schools whose positions continued to worsen. Melanie Ellis confirmed that support would be provided to these schools by a dedicated accountant. David Ramsden commended the work taking place and commented that it needed to continue. Ian Pearson commented that if the relevant action was taken at the right time, schools could be prevented from falling into deficit.
Reverend Mark Bennet referred to schools that were struggling and where difficult decisions were having to be made. Some of these schools had newly recruited Headteachers, which in some circumstances had inherited a deficit. Reverend Mark Bennet asked if schools were improving the positions of their budgets without compromising the care of children. Ian Pearson stated that individual schools were able to speak for themselves however, schools, Headteachers and Governors prioritised the needs and care of children when making decisions. Difficult decisions were often made around staff or a reduction on particular periods. David Ramsden stated that other examples included increasing class sizes and curriculum adjustments. At Little Heath School difficult decisions had been made around its A Level offer. All decisions came at a cost however, most Headteachers and Governors were in agreement that children should be put first.
Ian Nichol as representative of Robert Sandilands School commented that there were many reasons that could cause a school to go into deficit. Changes were put in place and in the case of a school he represented, demographic issues had been addressed. On behalf of all three schools that he represented, he stated that the children were always put first.
Catie Colston noted that the schools listed under 6.1 as ending 2018/19 with an unlicensed deficit, were small rural schools. Such schools were often faced with demographic issues.
Councillor Erik Pattenden noted that in some cases it looked like school deficits would recover due to the extra income received. Ian Pearson reported that schools could receive incomes from a number of different places. All schools recognised that generating income supported budgets however, there was increased opportunity to do so for certain schools.
RESOLVED that the Schools’ Forum noted the report.