School debt doubles in two years


State school debt has increased sharply since 2013 and is set to more than double in just two years as pressure on budgets lead to larger classrooms and fewer staff.

According to data gathered by the Times Educational Supplement, many maintained schools have been allowed to go into the red by local authorities on the condition that they rebalance their budgets within an agreed period.

However, teachers have warned that in order to rebalance their books and meet their repayments schools will have to look at making efficiencies which will likely meet getting rid of staff.

The total amount local authorities gave schools permission to borrow increased from £35.8 million to £51.7 million between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years.

The total in November for 2015-16 already stood at £56.7 million with nearly half the financial year to go, the figures, based on a total of 137 out of 174 local authorities.

The data also revealed the average permitted deficit per school, for indebted schools, has almost doubled to £122,828 since 2013-14.

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, said: "The simple fact is that there has been no real-terms increase in schools' budgets, and schools have had to deal with extra costs and inflationary pressures.

"In order for schools to bring their budgets in line to repay their debt, they will have to look at cutting staff, which makes up for 80 per cent of the school expenditure. Buying textbooks, and IT equipment might also suffer.

"Getting rid of teachers means for youngsters that their curriculum choices will be reduced, they will be taught in larger classrooms because you have fewer teachers but the same number of pupils.

"The impact of this does have a direct impact on youngster's education. There will be less extra-curricular activities like days out or themed days. It is the softer skills that get squeezed."

A spokesperson from The Department for Education said: "We have always been clear that local authorities need to work with schools to prevent any deficits and surpluses becoming significant."

The DfE is to look at what needs to be done to rebalance school funding from area to area and is launching a consultation on the issue.

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