Academisation Of Bradford Schools Leave Taxpayers With £250,000 Bill

Wycliffe Primary School in Shipley - courtesy of Google Maps.

The school’s deficits were left with Bradford Council – rather than being transferred to the academy chains with the schools.

The academisation of three primary schools has left Bradford taxpayers with a £250,000 bill.

And that bill could rise in the coming years as more “vulnerable” schools with high deficits are forced to become academies by the government.

Bradford Schools Forum, made up of local heads and other school leaders, was told that the recent conversion of Fearnville Primary School in Tyersal, Nessfield Primary School in Keighley and Wycliffe Primary School in Shipley meant the school’s deficits were left with Bradford Council – rather than being transferred to the academy chains with the schools.

Struggling Council run schools are often forced to become academies and, under Department for Education rules, any debts held by those schools remain with the council when they convert.

But if the schools have surplus money, they take the cash with them.

Bradford Council had set up a fund to deal with this problem, and members of the forum, which met in City Hall yesterday, were told that this was the first time the Council would have to dip into that fund.

Of the three schools, Nessfield Primary School left the Council with its £158,122 deficit, Wycliffe Primary School left its £50,456 deficit and Fearnville Primary School left its £43,854 deficit.

The Council’s fund to deal with these deficits currently stands at £320,000, with a further £110,600 to be added to it this financial year.

A report to the forum said : “Schools that convert under sponsored arrangements are typically very vulnerable, in Ofsted categories, that face a number of operational and financial challenges, many requiring significant additional leadership capacity and support and incurring additional costs from this, as well as seeing reductions in pupil numbers. Typically these schools are the types of school that could overspend in the short term.”

The report says the final figures could change “depending on the outcomes of on-going work to recover supply insurance claims and to finalise utility bills up to conversion.”

Schools finance officer Andrew Redding told members it was the first time the Council’s school funds would have to be used to pay off such deficits, adding: “I don’t think it will be the last, as these are challenging financial times for schools and a number of other academy conversions are on the table.”

Members of the forum once again raised concerns about the deficit at Hanson School in Swain House – which currently stands at £3,624,278 – up by over £600,000 from last year.

The issue of Hanson’s deficit has been raised numerous times in recent months, and at the meeting Marium Haque, deputy director for education and learning said she would provide members with more details of the Hanson situation at its next meeting in July.

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