Heads accused of salting away millions

Norfolk schoolchildren are being let down by headteachers and governors who salt away millions of pounds for an emergency, it was claimed last night.A hard-hitting report into the level of school balances in the county said school leaders had a “duty” to use money to benefit youngsters in their charge at the time.

Norfolk schoolchildren are being let down by headteachers and governors who salt away millions of pounds for an emergency, it was claimed last night.

A hard-hitting report into the level of school balances in the county said school leaders had a “duty” to use money to benefit youngsters in their charge at the time.

But Norfolk County Council's scrutiny working group said some heads and governing bodies were settling for a “satisfactory” level of education for their children - while keeping back thousands of pounds that could drive up performance.

A headteachers' leader hit back by saying schools always acted “in the interests of their youngsters”, and that they should have the flexibility to “act prudently” by setting aside cash if required.

The claims come two years after an ill-fated attempt was made to “claw back” and redistribute £3.5m of almost £30m that was held in balances by the county's schools.

After taking the cash, under-pressure education bosses handed it back. They eventually seized and redistributed just £163,000.

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Last year no money was clawed back, as it was decided that the £25m in balances was being held for “appropriate purposes” including staffing and future building projects.

Although the latest estimated figure for reserves held by Norfolk's 450 schools is about £13m, the working group said the level remained “unacceptably high”.

Geoff Kitchen, head of Harford Manor School and Norfolk president of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said: “Schools have the interests of all their youngsters at the forefront of want they do.”

He said schools should be able to “act prudently” if there were circumstances that required contingency funds such as staff adjustments or changes to school pupil numbers.

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