School funding to be slashed by Bury Council
TOWN hall chiefs are to slash school spending in a bid to fill a £3 million hole in budgets.
Bury Council bosses have admitted in a report they are in the red as they loaned money to schools when their budgets for supply staff and special needs pupils ran out.
The authority has now called in the debt — resulting in a decision by headteachers to reduce the amount spent on each high school pupil by £70 in September.
Each primary school pupil will be allocated £50 more, but the poorest among them, who receive extra help, will each lose up to £800.
Even an increase in pupil premium cash — money given by the government to all children on free school meals — will not make up the difference for the poorest children aged four to 11.
The number of primary school pupils will rise by 324 to 14,929.
The council has come under fire for going ahead with the cuts.
Bury’s Liberal Democrats leader, Cllr Tim Pickstone, said: “However this is dressed up by the council, this is less money for teaching children as the ‘overspend’ is paid back.
“The government has given Bury schools an extra £7.25 million for 2014-15 thanks to the Liberal Democrat pupil premium — specifically to help children from less well-off background get a good start in life.
“The cuts are clearly going to lessen the good impact this money should have.”
The report says there was an overspend of £664,000 in the education budget in the 12 months up to April 2013 for three reasons: * Extra money was needed because so many children were classed as having special needs * Schools had to pay for more supply teachers than budgeted for due to staff going on maternity or paternity leave, being suspended, or going on ‘public duties leave’, such as union-related business.
* The council had to spend an extra £640,000 on educating those aged 16 to 25 with learning disabilities when a £1.1 million government funding pot ran out.
The report added: ‘Unless action is taken, there could be an accumulated shortfall by April 2015 of more than £3 million.
“This can only be met by adjusting the school’s funding formula.”
A Bury Council spokesman said the borough’s schools would receive an extra £5 million in the 12 months starting in April, but admitted some would pay off the debt “recently incurred to provide educational opportunities for our most vulnerable pupils”.
He added: “We stepped in to ensure all these children and young people’s needs were met, but the ‘loan’ needs to be paid back from future money available for schools.
“The extra £5 million will take the total amount available for all our schools to the highest ever amount of well over £150 million, which is much greater than the rest of the council’s services put together.
“Some of this extra money will pay for more teachers and support staff in schools as well as additional educational equipment and books.
“Ofsted recently said that Bury secondary schools were the best in the North West.”
* The introduction of free school meals for children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 classes will still go ahead from September.