Councillors from all parties have called for a report into how cash-strapped maintained schools in Warwickshire will be supported by the county council.
Labour’s Cllr Helen Adkins (Leamington Willes) tabled the notice of motion at last week’s full council meeting prompting a lengthy debate into the problems facing headteachers as they struggled to balance their books.
The notice read: “That the overview and scrutiny committee recognises that schools face more financial pressures than ever before (including increases in contributions to national insurance, teachers’ pensions, the apprenticeship levy and cuts incurred due to the government’s national funding formula).
“In view of this, council requests that the cabinet portfolio holder for education and learning produces a report showing how the council will support the county maintained schools currently in budget deficit, or potentially in budget deficit in the near future and including in the report consideration of how financial support might be offered to such schools.”
The portfolio holder in question, Cllr Colin Hayfield (Con Coleshill South and Arley), said: “I’m really grateful to our colleagues for raising this issue. The headline within maintained schools is that about 19 per cent of our maintained schools are in a deficit situation.
That’s not to pretend that we’ve not had deficits before - some of them climb out of it quite quickly and some are in deficit for a number of years. But the problem is growing and we recognise that.
Having to deal with the costs of having to deal with SEN pupils within their mainstream settings has been a challenge for some schools particularly as the needs for some of those children have grown.
“Legislation does not allow county councils to use its council tax reserves to pay off the debt of schools. We can’t do it that way even if we had the money to do it.
“There is no easy solution to it and it isn’t likely to go away soon. We have to try and manage it and I think it is entirely appropriate that the overview and scrutiny committee looks in some depth at this.”
Cllr Adkins summed up the debate by adding: “Having been a teacher, funding is important. If the funds aren’t there then it has an impact on the ability of the teachers to do their job.
“I do believe that you can take decisions up to the Secretary of State for Education to enable councils to cut some of the deficit in schools and there is a particular school that is in severe deficit at the moment and I’m wondering if that can happen.”
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the motion.
After the meeting, Cllr Adkins, who proposed the motion, said: “In Leamington, I know of one local primary school who has suffered £376,000 pounds worth of cuts since 2015.
And a large secondary school who has suffered cuts of £2.4million.
Despite the rise in academies, the county still have responsibility for many schools, many of whom are in deficit or moving into deficit. I think there is a recognition cross-party in Warwickshire that our education system is facing a financial crisis.
I am pleased this motion was passed and I look forward to reading the report.”