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Budget pressures push more state-run schools in Norfolk into the red

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:39 19 December 2018

An increasing proportion of state-run schools in Norfolk are spending more than they receive in funding, according to new figures. Picture: PA/RADAR

An increasing proportion of state-run schools in Norfolk are spending more than they receive in funding, according to new figures. Picture: PA/RADAR

PA/RADAR

More than a dozen state-run schools in Norfolk are struggling the balance their books in the face of fresh budget pressures, new figures show.

Jonathan Rice, headteacher at Caister Junior School. Picture: ArchantJonathan Rice, headteacher at Caister Junior School. Picture: Archant

Data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows 14 of the county’s 236 maintained schools (6pc), which are supported by the county council, finished the last financial year in deficit.

This means their budget was not enough to cover all their costs in the 12 months to March 2018. In total the schools overspent by £321,900 in the year – equal to £23,000 each.

The proportion is almost three times higher than it was in 2012-13, when just 2pc of state-run schools in the county (10 out of 408) finished the year in deficit.

The DfE figures do not include academies, which are government-funded by not overseen by local authorities.

As their budgets are made to stretch further to provide more services for more pupils, schools have taken drastic action from staff redundancies to reducing their curriculums to stay afloat.

Jonathan Rice, primary chairman at Educate Norfolk, the county’s headteacher association, said the pressure to do more with less had put many schools “up against it” financially.

“Budgets are being reduced but there is a greater pressure on schools to provide for more children and a greater range of needs – that might be emotional needs which have an impact on their behaviour, or special educational needs which means we need to think about our provision for them,” he said.

“There are additional bureaucratic pressures from government like the teachers’ pay increase, which schools are having to part-fund, and higher pension and National Insurance contributions for teachers which all comes out of school budgets.”

Across England the proportion of schools and colleges in deficit has risen from 5.7pc in 2012-13 to 10.2pc last year – more than 1,500 in total.

The National Education Union (NEU) attributed the deficits to a “woeful lack of funding”. Its joint general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “Children and young people get one chance at education. It must not be ruined by short-sighted policy.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “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 £10bn they spend on non-staffing costs and ensure every pound is spent as effectively as possible to give children a great education.”

Norfolk County Council works with the county’s school forum, a body which is consulted on education funding issues, to decide how central government funding for schools will be distributed.

A spokesman for the authority said: “From next year, following consultation with Norfolk schools we have agreed with the schools forum that funding will be allocated using the national funding formula.

“These figures highlight that this is a national issue, with 10pc of the country’s maintained schools running a deficit compared with 6pc in Norfolk.”

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