Sewell Park Academy plans staff cuts to avoid £500,000 deficit

Sewell Park College headteacher Penny Bignell. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Sewell Park College headteacher Penny Bignell. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A city high school is planning a cull of senior and support staff just months after becoming an academy in a bid to avoid a £500,000 deficit next year.

Sewell Park College. Picture: Denise Bradley

Sewell Park College. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

Sewell Park Academy, which joined the Right for Success Trust in September, blamed its financial difficulties on falling pupil numbers, and mistakes in calculations made by Norfolk County Council in the run up to its conversion.

The council said it was working with the trust to address its concerns, but said it had acted in good faith.

A consultation document seen by this newspaper, which outlines the proposed cuts, said: 'The reason for the proposed staffing adjustment is due to two factors, ie the falling roll numbers at the school leading to a significant decrease in Education Funding Agency funding, plus the failure of the local authority to factor the level of costs of running and maintaining the school into their restructuring programme and budget setting prior to the transfer in September 2015.'

The school is projecting a £517,145 deficit in 2016-17, rising to £1,927,269 in 2018-19, and has launched a formal consultation over plans to restructure staff, which include removing the positions of deputy head and two assistant heads, and getting rid of some support staff and cutting the hours of others.

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The school had 761 pupils before it became an academy, and expects to have 504 in September 2016.

The consultation document said the aim to was to 'downsize the whole school structure to serve the needs of around 500 pupils only whilst striving to ensure that quality teaching and learning is still being delivered'.

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In a statement, headteacher Penny Bignell and the Right for Success Trust said: 'The academy is addressing the predicted deficit in the budget at this point in time because action must be taken to prevent a deficit budget next year.

'This has come about as the numbers on roll for the next year are far lower even with a higher intake for 2016-17 than predicted by Norfolk County Council.

'It is a situation that we are disappointed to inherit but action must be taken to support the teaching and learning so that outcomes on children continue to improve.'

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: 'We are working with this trust to address the concerns they have raised, however we are confident that the interim executive board, leadership team and local authority officers acted in good faith and liaised closely with the incoming trust to ensure the school converted in good order and in a timely manner.

'The interim executive board [which replaced governors in summer 2014] was praised by Ofsted in its final inspection report before conversion for its strong leadership role, operational capabilities and managing the transfer to academy status smoothly. In the same report the county council was also commended for its excellent support and challenge during this period.'

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