Hewett School’s deficit projected to top £650,000 - but final total still not agreed

Protest at the gates of Hewett School after it was announced it will become an academy.Picture: ANTO

Protest at the gates of Hewett School after it was announced it will become an academy.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The Hewett School had a projected deficit of more than £650,000 when it was controversially turned into an academy last September, it has emerged - and Norfolk's remaining non-academies will have to pick up the bill.

However, eight months after it became the Hewett Academy, the final figure for the deficit has yet to be agreed because of disagreements between Norfolk County Council and the Inspiration Trust, who took it over, about who should pay for what.

The finances of the school had been in deficit for a number of years before it converted.

Inspiration Trust spokesman James Goffin said: 'These amounts have nothing to do with the Hewett becoming an academy but relate to bills racked up under Norfolk County Council's watch - some going back several years.

'We hear a lot about maintained schools being democratically accountable, and local people will want to know where their councillors were when these secret deficits were mounting up and not the old pleading for someone else to pick up the tab for their shortcomings.'

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A council spokesman said schools and their governing bodies are responsible for managing their own finances, not the council or individual councillors.

He added: 'The Hewett School had serious budget issues for some time, which the council has continued to monitor and challenge by working with the governors and leadership.'

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He said that if a local authority-maintained school realises it will have a deficit, it must apply to the council for a licensed deficit, explain how it came about, and set out a recovery plan to return to a balanced budget.

Any deficits of schools that are forced to become sponsored academies are written off, giving the academy a financial fresh start, and the deficit is paid out of a contingency fund the remaining non-academy schools pay into.

This money in the fund is pooled, and used to pay costs such as maternity and paternity leave, jury service and union duties.

In March, the Hewett School's deficit was projected to be £659,936, and the contingency fund's budget for 2015-16 was £850,360.

The council spokesman added: 'We are working hard to complete negotiations on matters with Inspiration Trust relating to goods and services ordered before the academy conversion but which were for the benefit of the academy.'

Mr Goffin, of the Inspiration Trust, said that since it took over, it had invested more than £160,000 on textbooks, computers, refurbishing classrooms and providing support for pupils and staff, and that the academy's long-term financial future was secure as a member of the trust.

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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