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West Berkshire primary schools tackling budget deficits

Schools are scaling back staff and changing timetables

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas


01635 886639

West Berkshire primary schools tackling budget deficits

A PE teacher changing his timetable, the resignation of assistant headteachers and scaling back staff numbers are just some of the ways in which cash-strapped schools across West Berkshire are being forced to address financial shortfalls.

Nine schools in West Berkshire currently have a deficit totalling £870,000, two of which are asking for extra financial help from West Berkshire Council.

John Rankin Schools Federation, which oversees both the junior and infant school, has a current in-year deficit of £131,033, despite having managed to reduce its debt by more than £58,000 since the last financial year.

The school is asking the council for an extra £2,833 to cover a one-off, unbudgeted cost in setting up an after-school club after costs for a club leader, deputies and administration expenditure were more than anticipated.

But the federation – which had a deficit of £28,693 during the 2014/15 financial year – said its plans for the rest of the year remain on track as a result of several initiatives it has taken.

Having implemented a new leadership structure in September 2018, the school is now running its after-school club and a new business team have had an “overwhelming” impact on the monitoring of its budget.

Teaching assistants and leadership full-time equivalents have been considerably reduced.

Meanwhile, The Willows Primary School is £130,797 in deficit.

This is due to costs that have arisen from the West Berkshire Training Partnership, a teacher training programme which the Pyle Hill school ran up until July last year.

And St John the Evangelist Infant School, on Newtown Road, has a shortfall of £46,000 – with its headteacher expected to go part-time, working three days a week.

In addition to the nine schools that have already declared a budget deficit, one additional West Berkshire school – Brightwalton Primary – has already told the council it is forecasting an in-year deficit of £7,000 as a result of redundancy costs.

The school is requesting £7,494.37, which would enable it to balance its budget.

In Thatcham, Parsons Down Schools Federation has racked up a deficit of £92,212.

In a bid to recover some of its debt, the federation has taken measures to stabilise the school’s pupil numbers by reducing its Planned Admission Number (PAN) to 60.

The school has also carried out a feasibility study to combine the schools on to one site which, the school says will be “integral” to its deficit recovery plan.

In its progress statement, the school said: “The demographics of Thatcham mean that pupil forecasts we have just received for the next five years are lower than expected and, if correct, this presents an additional challenge to our deficit recovery plan which we will need to address.”

St Finian’s Catholic Primary Schoo, Cold Ash, has an in-year deficit of £31,909, in part due to a company providing afterschool clubs pulling out at short notice.

Beenham Primary School has a current shortfall of £36,153, down from £64,783 the previous year.

The school has taken several cost-cutting measures, such as no longer having an assistant head.

The school’s PE coach also changed his timetable to enable him to run a sports session over one lunchtime, meaning there is no requirement for lunchtime supervision one day each week.

Parents now also contribute towards their child’s stationery costs.

Kintbury Primary School has a main school deficit budget of £15,576, which is a slight increase from its £12,317 amount last year.

In the east of the district, Westwood Farm Schools Federation in Tilehurst has a deficit of £45,280.

The school remains on track to recover its deficit by nearly £5,000, in part owing to the resignation of the school’s part-time assistant headteacher, who the school says it has no plans to replace.

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