Schools face cash crisis

A cash crisis is hitting a number of schools across the county as it is revealed a fall in pupil numbers this year has had a direct effect on school finances.Tracey Gray

A cash crisis is hitting a number of schools in Norfolk because a fall in pupil numbers this year has had a direct effect on school finances.

Earlier this month Oriel Specialist Mathematics and Computing College in Gorleston sent a letter to staff and parents saying it had "significant financial difficulties".

The school said it lost some funding by failing to attract sufficient students. It said it was 68 pupils down, which is the equivalent of �200,000 and there are fears up to 20 staff could lose their jobs.

Now teachers' unions in the county are reporting a number of schools coming to them to discuss the possibility of having to make redundancies and cuts in their budgets because they cannot manage, mainly because of a decrease in pupil numbers.

Colin Collis, from teaching union NASUWT, said: "We are looking at about 30-40 staff which may be affected from all of the schools who have approached us.

"One of the major problems is that there are 800 fewer children in the school system this year so schools, which are funded per pupil, are not getting that funding."

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A spokesman from the Norfolk branch of the National Union of Teachers said: "The NUT is very unhappy with the explanations we have so far received as the reasons the potential budget deficit was not picked up much earlier."

Phil May, head of Costessey High School, which, like Oriel, is on special measures, said: "Pupil numbers have declined since we were put on special measures and we also thought we may not get the funding from the National Challenge programme although we did at the last minute. We have also lost some of our social deprivation funding, which I think may well have happened to Oriel as well.

"We are confident we will be able to get on track with the funding we have, so our situation is nowhere near as bad as Oriel's."

In February, figures were released which showed how many schools had deficits and surpluses on their budgets.

At the end of the 2008 financial year, they show that in Norfolk alone 107 schools were classed as having an excessive surplus budget

In contrast, 72 schools were classed as being in deficit with their budget.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, Rosalie Monbiot, said: "There are a lot less pupils in the school system this year, mainly because we have less young people with families moving into the area. It is not something we can help. I think it is going to affect this September's school budgets and schools need to asses the situation now because it may be the case they have to come up with some unattractive options."